US military maneuvers near Philippines ahead of Taiwan elections

National Security Adviser John Bolton warns China against limiting free passage

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U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton.

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton. (By Associated Press)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The United States military was conducting maneuvers off the Philippines ahead of Taiwan’s November 24 local elections as National Security Adviser John Bolton warned China against limiting free passage in the South China Sea.

The outspoken Trump Administration official’s comments were interpreted as a warning to Southeast Asian leaders meeting in Singapore, and in particular the Philippines, not to conclude a deal with China which would endanger free passage of vessels in the area, the Wall Street Journal reported.

At the same time, two U.S. aircraft carriers with 150 jets on board were taking part in what the U.S. Navy labeled “complex” warfare drills in the region, according to a Reuters news agency report Thursday.

The USS Ronald Reagan and the USS John C. Stennis were conducting air, surface, and anti-submarine drills, providing “unparalleled naval combat power,” Reuters quoted U.S. Seventh Fleet commander Vice Admiral Phil Sawyer.

In Taipei, the Ministry of National Defense said it was continuing to monitor all air and sea movement in the waters close to Taiwan and taking the appropriate steps to meet any situation, while respecting the right of the U.S. to conduct military drills in the area.