US naval fleet in South China Sea
The US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur patrols in the Philippine Sea.Reuters file photo

The US Navy Third Fleet is to reportedly send more ships to East Asia, at a time of heightened tensions with China. The ships out of San Diego will patrol the waters alongside the Navy's Seventh Fleet, based in Japan it was reported yesterday (14 June).

In April (2016), the Third Fleet's Pacific Surface Action Group deployed its guided-missile destroyers, the USS Spruance and the USS Momsen, to East Asia. The vessels will undertake a range of exercises, of which Navy officials did not reveal details.

The extra floating firepower comes amid "uncertainty and angst in the region," said the commander of the US Pacific Fleet, Admiral Scott Swift.

Swift wants the Navy to utilise the "total combined power" of the 140,000 sailors, 200 ships and 1,200 aircraft that make up the Pacific Fleet, Reuters reported.

China is continuing to aggressively push its claims throughout the majority of the South China Sea. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei — nations with close military ties with the US — have overlapping claims.

Japan recently summoned the Chinese ambassador to Tokyo, after Beijing's naval frigate sailed close to the disputed chain of islands in the East China Sea. China, for its part in the dispute, has been angered by what it considers challenging US patrols coming too close to islands controlled by the nation.

"I think before Americans' so-called 'rebalancing' in the Asia Pacific, the South China Sea was very quiet, very peaceful," Liu Xiaoming, China's ambassador to Britain, told Reuters.

The fleet deployment appears to be part of President Barack Obama's plan to shift 60% of US naval assets in Asia, to address concerns about China, noted Greg Poling of the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.