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US Military Show Of Strength In Hong Kong

File photo of the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), and USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) carrier strike groups steaming in formation.
by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) March 07, 2007
The US navy showed off its newest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in Hong Kong Wednesday, as the fleet's commander refused to be drawn on whether the vessel will be boosting the US military build-up in the Gulf. The United States has in recent months positioned two carrier groups in the Gulf region, its biggest deployment in the area since before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, raising speculation about a possible US strike against Iran.

Now the 97,000-ton, nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier has been "surged" to the west Pacific, led by fleet commander Rear Admiral Charles Martoglio.

Martoglio refused to be drawn on the specifics of his mission or the fleet's future movements, but added: "If needed, we are prepared and ready to conduct major combat operations.

"The United States decided to surge the Ronald Reagan strike group to the west Pacific to demonstrate our commitment to the peace, security and stability in this part of the world," Martoglio told reporters aboard the ship, which carries more than 5,000 sailors.

Washington accuses Iran of seeking nuclear weapons and fueling the anti-US insurgency in Iraq.

The USS Ronald Reagan -- which carries more than 80 combat aircraft and can operate for 20 years without refuelling -- is in the west Pacific to take over from the USS Kitty Hawk, the navy's only permanently forward deployed aircraft carrier, which is undergoing repairs in Japan.

"This is a routine port visit that has been planned for a while," said Martoglio, when asked why the carrier was stopping in Hong Kong. He would not discuss any future missions, but stressed the fleet's "flexibility".

The visit also comes as the US expressed concern about China's increase in military spending, saying it was "inconsistent" with peaceful goals.

China at the weekend announced the biggest jump in its military budget in recent years, increasing spending by 17.8 percent to about 45 billion dollars.

That announcement came nearly two weeks after US Vice President Dick Cheney said that China's military build-up and recent test of a satellite-killing weapon were "not consistent with China's stated goal of a 'peaceful rise'."

Martoglio, who thanked the Chinese government for letting the ship stop in the port, said: "We do recognise that other nations and other governments have a legitimate right to build defensive forces and that is a decision best left to the government here.

"US Navy does maintain its forward presence in order to interact with friends, neighbours, allies and regional partners around the world and we intend to continue in that spirit of cooperation."

Source: Agence France-Presse

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China Not A Threat To Global Energy Security
Beijing (AFP) March 7, 2007
China's rapidly growing economy poses no threat to global energy security, the nation's top planner said Wednesday, arguing the country can provide for its own power needs. "Not only is China not a threat to global energy security but it is a positive factor in safeguarding the world's energy security," said Ma Kai, head of the National Development and Reform Commission.

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