American strike group commander Rear Admiral George M. Wikoff said that the US Navy is sending two aircraft carriers to the South China Sea to take part in a military drill, APA reports citing The Wall Street Journal.
The USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan, as well as several accompanying ships, are due to arrive in the area later on Saturday, according to Wikoff.
“The purpose is to show an unambiguous signal to our partners and allies that we are committed to regional security and stability”, he pointed out without elaborating on the exact location of the US exercises.
The rear admiral added that the drills were not a response to those currently being carried out by Beijing in the South China Sea, and earlier slammed by the Pentagon as “counter-productive to efforts at easing tensions and maintaining stability”.
Wikoff was echoed by US Seventh Fleet spokesman Joe Jeiley, who said that “operating two carrier strike groups in the South China Sea provides advanced training opportunities for our forces” and gives “combatant commanders significant operational flexibility should those forces be called upon in response to regional situations”.
“The presence of two carriers is not in response to any political or world events. This advanced capability is one of many ways the US Navy promotes security, stability, and prosperity throughout the Indo-Pacific”.
The statement comes after Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian rejected the US Department of Defence’s crtiticism of Beijing’s drills in the South China Sea, which he said are being conducted within the scope of China’s sovereignty.
In an apparent reference to the US, the spokesman added that certain “non-regional countries” carrying out military exercises in the South China Sea affects the region’s stability.