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Reagan Carrier Strike Group heads back into South China Sea amid increasing tension with China

The aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan and its strike group returned to the South China Sea Thursday for the third time in its 2020 deployment.

The Japan-based carrier is joined by Carrier Air Wing 5, the guided-missile cruiser Antietam and the guided-missile destroyers John S. McCain and Halsey.

There, the strike group is conducting flight operations, maritime strike exercises and training between surface and air units.

The South China Sea continues to be an area of contention, with Beijing increasingly laying claim to the waters while the United States and partners continue to send ships into the region to signal to China that the waters should remain international. On Tuesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping told his troops to “put all (their) minds and energy on preparing for war," according to CNN.

“Throughout our deployment, we continue our long tradition demonstrating the United States' commitment to the lawful use of the seas and maintaining open access to the international commons,” strike group commander Rear Adm. George Wikoff said in a statement.

Reagan operated with the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group in the South China Sea this summer.

The carrier’s move into the South China Sea comes a day after the destroyer Barry conducted a transit through the Taiwan Strait, a navigation the Navy says “demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

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