The USS Nimitz and the USS Ronald Reagan are now in the South China Sea for military exercises, a US Navy official confirmed to Fox News.
“The goal is to make it clear to our partners and allies that we are committed to regional security and stability,” Rear Admiral George Wikoff told The Wall Street Journal, which was the first media to report on the exercises that could to upset Beijing.
The exercises, to support a free and open Indo-Pacific and promote a rules-based international order, also included “24-hour flights testing the strike capacity of carrier-based aircraft,” he added.
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The South China Sea is where China opposes small neighbors in multiple territorial disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons. The waters are a major shipping route for world trade and are rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves.
The People’s Liberation Army of China has been conducting exercises off the Paracel Islands in the disputed South China Sea since July 1, angering the Philippines, and Chinese maritime authorities have banned all ships from sailing in the maneuvering area.
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In another message to China, a B-52 bomber from Louisiana carried out a 28-hour mission to train with jet aircraft from the aircraft carriers Reagan and Nimitz in the South China Sea, Air Force said. .
Elsewhere in the fleet, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower has been at sea for more than 169 consecutive days since leaving Norfolk in January. Other warships from Ike’s attack group have also been underway for at least five months.
Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press of Fox News contributed to this report.