The Nimitz and Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike groups picked up high-end dual-carrier exercises in the South China Sea again July 17 — a move that comes after the U.S. said Beijing’s “claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful.”

Together, the carriers and their strike groups are partaking in tactical air defense exercises to “maintain warfighting readiness and proficiency” the Navy said in a July 17 news release.

“Nimitz and Reagan Carrier Strike Groups are operating in the South China Sea, wherever international law allows, to reinforce our commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, a rules based international order, and to our allies and partners in the region,” Rear Adm. Jim Kirk, commander of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, said in the Navy news release.

“Security and stability is essential to peace and prosperity for all nations, and it is for that reason the U.S. Navy has been present and ready in the Pacific for over 75 years,” Kirk said.

Earlier in July, the carrier strike groups and an Air Force B-52 Stratofortress from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana conducted a maritime integration exercise in the South China Sea.

That iteration of exercises was launched July 4 and each carrier strike group continued “on its respective operational tasking” on July 8, Lt. Cmdr. Sean Brophy, Task Force 70 spokesman aboard the Reagan told CNN.

The Navy said placing the carriers in the South China Sea is not a reaction to any political or global event. Instead, the exercises are routine operations designed to foster tactical operability.

Even so, the most recent exercise follows the U.S. rejection Monday of most of of China’s claims in the South China Sea. That’s a change from the status quo, where the U.S. resisted wading into maritime disputes between China and other countries in the region and called for peaceful solutions.

“The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Monday.

“America 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,” Pompeo said. “We stand with the international community in defense of freedom of the seas and respect for sovereignty and reject any push to impose ‘might makes right’ in the South China Sea or the wider region.”

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