The two combat carriers along with four warships will include round-the-clock flights testing the striking ability of carrier-based aircraft. What grabs attention about this move by the US is that it is rare for major American and Chinese military drills to take place in the same region at the same time.
"I can confirm that the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) are conducting dual-carrier operations and exercises in the South China Sea to support a free and open Indo-Pacific. High-end integrated exercises build unmatched flexibility, endurance, manoeuvrability and firepower in an all-domain war-fighting environment," Lt Cmdr. Sean Brophy, APR M, Public Affairs Officer for the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group, told ANI.
"These efforts support enduring the US commitments to stand up for the right of all nations to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows. This opportunity for two carrier strike groups to train and operate together in the region provides combatant commanders with significant operational flexibility and capabilities that only the US Navy can command," Lt Brophy said.
The exercise is long-planned but comes as China conducts military drills of its own in the area, near the contested Paracel Islands, exercises that have been criticised by the US and other countries.
"America agrees with our South-East Asian friends: The PRC's (People's Republic of China) military exercise in disputed waters of the South China Sea is highly provocative. We oppose Beijing's unlawful claims. Period," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted on Friday.
The Pentagon said in a statement cited by CNN on Thursday that China's "military exercises are the latest in a long string of China's actions to assert unlawful maritime claims and disadvantage its South-East Asian neighbours in the South China Sea."
The US Navy's operation of two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers in the South China Sea region further represents a significant show of force and comes amid heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing over a number of areas, including Hong Kong.
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