US Navy aircraft carriers back in South China Sea
The USS Ronald and USS Nimitz carrier strike groups have resumed rare dual exercises in the South China Sea, the second time this month the massive warships have teamed up in the contested waters.
Comprising more than 12,000 US military personnel among the two aircraft carriers and their escorting cruisers and destroyers were operating in the South China Sea as of Friday, the CNN quoted statement of US Pacific Fleet.
The two carriers, with more than 120 aircraft deployed between them, were conducting tactical air defence drills "to maintain warfighting readiness and proficiency," the statement said. "The two-carrier strike force trains to the highest levels of readiness to ensure responsiveness to any contingency through power projection," it said.
Navy Lieutenant Commander Sean Brophy who was aboard the USS Reagan, said on July 8 that each strike group continues to be on its respective operational tasking. China, which claims 3.3 million square miles of the 3.5 million South China Sea as its sovereign territory, has reacted sourly to the carriers' presence in the region.
"US actions are intended to drive a wedge between countries and promote the militarization of the South China Sea. It will ultimately undermine peace and stability in the region," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian.
"The world will not allow Beijing to use the South China Sea as its maritime empire. The US stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law," said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The Chinese embassy in Washington called these accusations as 'completely unjustified'. The region is currently disputed between seven countries; Vietnam, Brunei, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia.
A 2016 ruling by a court constituted under the authority of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), declared China's claim of the 'nine-dash line' as arbitrary with no historical claim. China had rejected the ruling.