The USS North Carolina (SSN-777), a Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine, arrived on May 13 in our country, in mainland Zambales, located 124 nautical miles from the contested part of the region, the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.
Many believes that this will have a great impact over the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal issue. But the Department of National Defense (DND) spokesman Dr. Peter Paul Reuben Galvez said on Wednesday it is just an ordinary submarine routine visit. “It is just a regular port call of foreign warship. In fact, their request to dock at Subic Bay, was made last April 3, more than a month in advance,” he said. The submarine is just doing a restocking and is expected to leave by May 19.
As a matter of course, warships of friendly countries with ties to the Philippines, can make a port call anytime as long as it is approved by the responsible government agency.
Galvez said the visit of the USS North Carolina is in no way connected to the ongoing maritime stand-off between the Philippines and China regarding ownership of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.
While Richard Rhinehart, North Carolina's commanding officer, in a press statement released by the United States-Pacific Command (USPACOM), said: "The crew is proud of our recent contributions as part of our country's commitment to maintaining freedom of navigation, peace and stability in the region."
The USS Carolina, whose home-port is Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, is 350 feet long and weighs more than 7,800 tons when submerged. The vessel is one of the stealthiest, most technologically advanced submarines in the world. It was built by General Dynamics Electric Boat Division in Groton, Conn.