The new U.S. commander of the Pacific Fleet has assured allies that American forces are well-equipped and ready to respond to any contingency in the South China Sea, where long-seething territorial disputes have set off widespread uncertainties.

Adm. Scott Swift said Friday that at least four more combat ships than originally planned may be deployed by the Navy to the region.

Swift says the U.S. doesn't take sides in the territorial rifts but that it would press ahead with operations to ensure freedom of navigation in disputed waters and elsewhere.

He also cites the U.S. military's massive response to help the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan's devastation in 2013 as a demonstration of America's commitment to help a troubled ally.