U.S. aircraft carrier docks at new Singapore pier for first time


SINGAPORE, Reuters

The U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk docked at Singapore’s new deep-draft naval pier on Thursday, the first of the giant American warships to use the facility, a U.S. Navy spokeswoman said.

Admiral Vern Clark, chief of U.S. naval operations, will join his Singaporean counterpart, Chief of Navy Rear Admiral Lui Tuck Yew, in commemorating the port visit on Friday at Changi Naval Base, on the eastern coast of the island state.

“The U.S. Navy believes this location in Singapore is strategically very important because it’s located right at the mouth of the Malacca Strait, an area in which a lot of trade and commerce passes through,” spokeswoman Lieutenant Leslie Hull-Ryde told Reuters.

“We are grateful for the access of the pier and the investment that Singapore has made in it. The access given to us really symbolizes the strength of the relationship.”

It is one of only two piers in Southeast Asia large enough to berth a carrier. The other is at Port Klang in Malaysia.

The U.S. navy has two commands based in Singapore to serve its ships.

The Logistics Group, Western Pacific, headed by Rear-Admiral Mark Edwards, plans the resupply of ships with food, fuel and spare parts and provides maintenance, while the U.S. Naval Regional Contracting Center obtains supplies for ships and aircraft in the region.

Singapore, a member of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), has no military alliance or treaty with the United States.

But the two countries have close ties and Washington has supplied arms to Singapore, ranging from attack helicopters to “AMRAAM” advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles.

New U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has not visited Asia, but President George W. Bush has emphasized the importance of Asia to U.S. security and prosperity.

The U.S. military has about 100,000 troops ashore and afloat in the Asia-Pacific and has said it would welcome more access to facilities and expanded joint exercises with friendly Asian states.

The 86,000-ton Kitty Hawk, the first in a class of three super carriers, has a crew of some 5,000. It has a flight deck area of 4.1 acres (1.7 hectares) and can carry more than 75 aircraft.

Hull-Ryde said the carrier was enroute from Yokosuka, Japan, and would remain in Singapore until early next week before leaving for Thailand.