The aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt and its strike group entered the South China Sea Saturday, a month into their second deployment in a year.

While a Navy release announcing TR’s move states the carrier is conducting routine operations, very little has been routine in the disputed waters for several years.

Beijing and its regional neighbors all have competing claims to various swaths of the busy waterway, and the U.S. Navy regularly sails into the sea to push back on Beijing’s expanding territorial claims and island building, and to reinforce the fact that such waters are international.

The strike group is conducting flight ops, maritime strike exercises and other coordinated training in the sea, an economically vital stretch of water through which two-thirds of global trade travels.

“We all benefit from free and open access to the seas and our operations represent our commitment to maintaining regional security and stability,” TR’s commanding officer, Capt. Eric Anduze, said in the release.

TR is joined on this deployment by Carrier Air Wing 11, the guided-missile cruiser Bunker Hill and the guided-missile destroyers Russell and John Finn.

Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at geoffz@militarytimes.com.

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