(Reuters) – The United States(U.S) is sending two aircraft carriers into the South China Sea at the same time as China is conducting military exercises in the contested waterway, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz would be in the South China Sea from Saturday, the U.S. news outlet quoted the strike group commander as saying.
“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 was quoted as saying.
He said the exercises were not a response to those being conducted by China, which the Pentagon criticized this week as “counter-productive to efforts at easing tensions and maintaining stability”.
China dismissed the U.S. criticism of its drills on Friday and suggested the United States was to blame for increasing tensions.
Wikoff did not give the location of the U.S. exercises. The Wall Street Journal said they would be conducted by the two carriers and four other warships and would include round-the-clock flights.
China announced last week it had scheduled five days of drills starting July 1 near the Paracel Islands, which are claimed by both Vietnam and China.
Vietnam and the Philippines have also criticized the planned Chinese drills, warning they could create tension in the region and impact Beijing’s relationship with its neighbors.
The United States accuses China of miniaturizing the South China Sea and trying to intimidate Asian neighbors who might want to exploit its extensive oil and gas reserves.
China claims 90% of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also lay claim to parts of it, through which about $3 trillion of trade passes each year.