MANILA, Philippines – A US Navy attack submarine has arrived in Subic Bay, Zambales, about 124 nautical miles away from the disputed Scarborough shoal (Panatag Shoal).
Authorities said the USS North Carolina is docked at Subic Freeport for "routine ship replenishment," amid a standoff between Philippine and Chinese ships near the area.
Philippine Navy spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Omar Tonsay clarified that the US submarine’s arrival last Sunday “has nothing to do with that matter.”
Tonsay said the USS North Carolina is due to leave Subic on Saturday.
According to the website of US Pacific Command (US PACOM), the 350-feet long USS North Carolina is the fourth submarine in the Virginia class and is the US Navy's "newest class of submarine and the first ship designed for the post Cold-War environment."
"She is designed to operate with stealth, agility and endurance in the world's littoral regions, as well as the deep oceans. During this maiden deployment, her crew provided the value of the ship and their training by completing a wide variety of missions assigned by their operational commander," PACOM said.
"North Carolina is one of the stealthiest, most technologically advanced submarines in the world. She brings to the region the capability to conduct the full spectrum of potential submarine missions including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface ship warfare, strike, naval special warfare involving special operations forces, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and mine warfare," it added.
The submarine's arrival came two weeks after Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario met with their US counterparts in Washington.
US Secretary of the State Hillary Clinton earlier stressed that although US is not taking side in the dispute, they are going to honor its obligations under the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty, which states that “an armed attack in the Pacific Area on either of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes.” -- With a report from Agence France-Presse