Although a report by the Daily Star entitled "US deploys nuclear warship strike force in major warning to China," which leads off with the explosive line, "US warships have sailed into disputed waters in defiance of China amid continuing tensions over the South China Sea," the truth may be far less exciting than the paper suggests.
In fact, the carrier is headed toward Vietnam's central coastal city of Da Nang, where it will call to port March 5-9, according to VN Express.
While the Daily Star's headline carries the ominous words "nuclear warship," which make it sound like some grim apocalyptic business, the Carl Vinson is actually just propelled by a nuclear reactor, pretty much like your average Russian submarine or even a civilian ice breaker. In terms of armaments, Carl Vinson is actually a Nimitz-class carrier. As Han Solo would say, "okay, it's big," in this case on the order of roughly 100,000 tons, but America's Gerald R. Ford class carriers are bigger; not for much, a couple meters here, a dozen there, but still, they are bigger than Nimitz ships.
The carrier's commanding officer, Capt. Douglas Verissimo, told reporters, "We are not trying to send a specific position other than we are operating international waters, we are exercising that freedom of navigation," Verissimo said on February 26, according to ABS-CBN.
"You can call it presence operations, where you are just routinely operating and navigating water space freely in accordance with international laws standards and norms," said ship spokesman Lt. Cdr Timothy Hawkins.
The US is adamant that it is "not picking sides" though it is promoting international law, said Rear Adm. John Fuller, commanding officer of Carrier Strike Group 1, which includes the Carl Vinson.
The carrier docked in the Philippine capital of Manila recently. "[Its] officers met with Filipino officials while its crew helped in humanitarian relief for those displaced by the rumbling Mayon Volcano," reports ABS-CBN.
It is interesting how Australian ABC News approaches this fact.
"The US is making a big deal of this trip because it wants to show Filipinos that it stands with them in keeping the South China Sea open," the website reads.
On the other hand, Asia Times reports Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte taking a very different tone, saying before an audience of Chinese-Filipino businessmen on February 19: "If you want, just make us a [Chinese] province, like Fujian."
"[Chinese] military bases, I must admit [they exist in the South China Sea], but is it intended for us? You must be joking. It's not intended for us," claimed Duterte. "It's really intended for those who China thinks will destroy them and that is America."
According to New York Times, he said Chinese President Xi Jinping had promised him that China won't build structures on the Scarborough Shoal, an area disputed by the Philippines and China in the South China Sea, adding that Xi should be trusted because "he's a man of honor."
The Vinson's tour could be a "major warning to China" or just a matter of having a big ship in the right place at the right time.