U.S., China Set for High-stakes Rivalry in Skies Above South China Sea

When the U.S. navy sent a littoral combat ship on its first patrol of the disputed Spratly islands in the South China Sea during the past week, it was watching the skies as well.
The USS Fort Worth, one of the most modern ships in the U.S. navy, dispatched a reconnaissance drone and a Seahawk helicopter to patrol the airspace, according to a little-noticed statement on the navy's website.
While the navy didn't mention China's rapid land reclamation in the Spratlys, the ship's actions were a demonstration of U.S. capabilities in the event Beijing declares an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the area - a move experts and some U.S. military officials see as increasingly likely.
A senior U.S. commander familiar with the situation in Asia said, "It's not inevitable but if we are betting paychecks I'll bet that they will eventually declare one, I just don't know when."



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