In the latest show of military muscle in the South China Sea, the U.S. has apparently sailed its USS Wasp amphibious assault ship near a strategic reef claimed by Beijing and Manila that lies just 230 km (140 miles) from the Philippine coast.

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China has refused to grant a U.S. Navy warship permission to make a port call in Hong Kong, the local U.S. consulate reported Tuesday, according to the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.

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The U.S. Navy broke with its tradition of hyping up F-35 deployments by sending of the USS Essex jump-jet carrier into the Western Pacific with a deck full of the revolutionary fighter jets — and it could signal a big change in how the U.S. deals with its toughest adversaries.

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The Navy made history on Monday by putting to sea for the first time ever an aircraft carrier with F-35B jets — and by deploying them in the Pacific, it's a message China and North Korea are sure to hear loud and clear.

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Photo via DoD

The Navy's USS Wasp helicopter carrier will replace the USS Bonhomme Richard in the 7th Fleet's forward-deployed base at Sasebo, Japan, giving the U.S. an F-35B compatible aircraft carrier right at North Korea and China's doorstep.

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A USS Wasp sailor who has been missing for a week was found safely Saturday night in Colorado, according to his sister.

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