According to a report from the South China Morning Post, as many as six Chinese warships were sent to the Middle East in the past week.
The 44th Naval Escort Task Force has been conducting regular operations in the area since May. Last week, they made a multi-day visit to Oman, during which they conducted a joint naval exercise with the Omani Navy, as reported by the Chinese defense ministry.
On Saturday, following their visit, the task force left the capital, Muscat, on October 14, and set sail for an undisclosed destination, according to state media.
Also on Saturday, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III unveiled a series of measures designed to strengthen the United States military presence in the Middle East.
Secretary Austin detailed three significant actions to bolster the position of the U.S. military in the Middle East.
Statement From Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on Steps to Increase Force Posture:
Following detailed discussions with President Biden on recent escalations by Iran and its proxy forces across the Middle East Region, today I directed a series of additional steps to further strengthen the Department of Defense posture in the region. These steps will bolster regional deterrence efforts, increase force protection for U.S. forces in the region, and assist in the defense of Israel.
First, I redirected the movement of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group to the Central Command area of responsibility. This carrier strike group is in addition to the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group, which is currently operating in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. It will further increase our force posture and strengthen our capabilities and ability to respond to a range of contingencies.
I have also activated the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery as well as additional Patriot battalions to locations throughout the region to increase force protection for U.S. forces.
Finally, I have placed an additional number of forces on prepare to deploy orders as part of prudent contingency planning, to increase their readiness and ability to quickly respond as required.
I will continue to assess our force posture requirements in the region and consider deploying additional capabilities as necessary.
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