The United States performs exercises in the South China Sea while China also performs military exercises

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Two US aircraft carriers were conducting exercises in the disputed South China Sea on Saturday, the U.S. Navy said, while China was also carrying out military exercises that have been criticized by the Pentagon and neighboring states.China and the United States have accused each other of fueling tensions in the strategic waterway in an era of strained relations over everything from the coronavirus to trade in Hong Kong.

The USS Nimitz and the USS Ronald Reagan were conducting operations and exercises in the South China Sea “to support a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the navy said in a statement.

He did not specify where the exercises were taking place in the South China Sea, which stretches some 1,500 km (900 miles) and 90% of which are claimed by China despite protests from its neighbors.

“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, quoted by the Wall Street Journal, who first report on the exercises.

Rear Admiral Wikoff, commander of the strike group led by Ronald Reagan, said the exercises were not a response to those led by China, which the Pentagon criticized this week as “counterproductive to efforts to ease tensions and maintain stability ”.

China rejected U.S. criticism of its exercises on Friday and suggested that the U.S. was to blame for rising tensions.

U.S. aircraft carriers have long conducted exercises in the Western Pacific, including the South China Sea, according to the U.S. Navy. At one time recently, the United States had three carriers in the region.

China announced last week that it has scheduled five days of exercise starting July 1 near the Paracel Islands, which are claimed by Vietnam and China.

Vietnam and the Philippines have also criticized the planned Chinese exercises, warning that they could create tension in the region and affect Beijing’s relations with its neighbors.

The United States accuses China of trying to intimidate Asian neighbors who may want to exploit its vast oil and gas reserves. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim parts of the South China Sea, through which about $ 3 trillion in trade flows annually.

According to the American press release, the naval exercises gave the commanders the flexibility and the capabilities “that only the American navy can command”.

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