Two US Navy aircraft carriers have resumed rare dual exercises in the South China Sea. The USS Ronald and USS Nimitz carrier strike groups, 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 US Pacific Fleet said in a statement. The two carriers, with more than 120 aircraft deployed between them, were conducting tactical air defense drills “to maintain warfighting readiness and proficiency,” the statement said. This is the second time this month the massive warships have teamed up in the contested waters.
Prior to this month, the Nimitz and the Reagan in the South China Sea had earlier operated together there in 2014 and 2001. China, which claims almost all of the 1.3 million square miles the South China Sea as its sovereign territory, reacted harshly to the carriers’ presence in the region in early July. Since then, tensions have increased, with Washington this week labeling most of China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea as illegal.