SOUTH CHINA SEA -- The Arleigh Burke-class, guided-missile destroyer USS STETHEM (DDG 63) forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, is conducting routine operations in the South China Sea.
While in the area, Stethem completed a refueling at sea with Her Majesty's New Zealand Ship (HMNZS) Endeavour (A 11).
Command Senior Chief William Palmer IV said the replenishment allowed Stethem to remain mission ready.
"Conducting these types of operations with our allies builds proficiency and sustains our ability to maintain a persistent presence throughout the 7th Fleet area of operations," Palmer said.
During operations, Stethem has regularly communicated with naval vessels from the People's Republic of China. Nations utilize the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) to communicate navigational intentions to ensure safe maneuvering.
Fire Controlman Senior Chief Robert Kline, a Tactical Actions Officer, said the experience working with foreign navies increases the responsiveness and effectiveness of the crew.
"As forward deployed naval forces you are constantly operating around ships from other navies," Kline said. "This provides vital operational experience that increases our proficiency in mission critical areas."
The United States is committed to the security of the Indo-Asia- Pacific. The U.S. Navy routinely conducts naval operations in oceans and seas worldwide. Our allies and partners value enduring U.S. Navy presence throughout the Pacific Fleet (PACFLT) area of operations.
Since departing Japan earlier this year, Stethem has operated extensively in the Western Pacific. In addition to the current operations in the South China Sea, the ship and its crew operated in the waters off the Korean Peninsula alongside the Carl Vinson Strike Group and the Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy during the 2017 Foal Eagle exercise. In conjunction with Foal Eagle, Stethem conducted routine port visits in the Republic of Korea, including the island of Jeju-do, where Stethem was the first foreign warship to visit the new Jeju Joint Civil-Military Complex.
Stethem, assigned to Commander, Destroyer Squadron 15, and is on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.