China claims sovereignty over most of the sea, a claim that other countries in Southeast Asia reject.
“The goal is to show unambiguously to our partners and allies that we are committed to regional security and stability,” said Rear Admiral George M. Wikoff. Wall Street newspaper.
Wikoff said the exercises responded to those led by Beijing, which he called “counterproductive to efforts to ease tensions and maintain stability.” The Pentagon has accused China of trying to intimidate its neighbors, including Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
The Navy did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.
The move comes amid strong tensions between Washington and Beijing over the latter’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as trade concerns and China’s efforts to exert more control over Hong Kong.