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Navy conducts exercises in South China Sea during Chinese military drills

Navy conducts exercises in South China Sea during Chinese military drills
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Two U.S. Navy aircraft carriers conducted exercises Saturday in disputed waters of the South China Sea at the same time that China carried out controversial military drills in the region.

The Navy confirmed to Reuters that the USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan were carrying out operations and exercises in the South China Sea “to support a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

China claims sovereignty over most of the sea, a claim other Southeast Asian countries reject. 

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“The purpose is to show an unambiguous signal to our partners and allies that we are committed to regional security and stability,” Rear Admiral George M. Wikoff told The Wall Street Journal.

Wikoff said that the exercises were in response to those being conducted by Beijing, which he called “counter-productive to efforts at easing tensions and maintaining 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 high tensions between Washington and Beijing over the latter's response to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as trade issues and China's effort to exert more control over Hong Kong.