Skip to main content
Access every election story that matters
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Access every election story that matters
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

An F/A-18 Super Hornet prepares for take-off, onboard the USS Ronald Reagan, in the South China Sea on Sept. 30, 2017.

Bobby Yip/Reuters

Two U.S. aircraft carriers were conducting exercises in the disputed South China Sea on Saturday, the U.S. Navy said, as China also carried out military drills that have been criticized by the Pentagon and neighbouring states.

China and the United States have accused each other of stoking tension in the strategic waterway at a time of strained relations over everything from the new coronavirus to trade to Hong Kong.

The USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan were carrying out operations and exercises in the South China Sea “to support a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the navy said in a statement.

Story continues below advertisement

It did not say exactly where the exercises were being conducted in the South China Sea, which extends for some 1,500 km (900 miles) and 90% of which is claimed by China despite the protests of its neighbours.

“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 by the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the exercises.

Wikoff, commander of the strike group led by the Ronald Reagan, said the exercises were not a response to those being conducted by China, which the Pentagon criticized this week as “counterproductive 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.

U.S. carriers have long carried out exercises in the Western Pacific, including in the South China Sea, according to the U.S. Navy. At one point recently, the United States had three carriers in the region.

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 neighbours.

Story continues below advertisement

The United States accuses China of trying to intimidate Asian neighbours who might want to exploit its extensive oil and gas reserves. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also lay claim to parts of the South China Sea, through which about $3 trillion of trade passes each year.

The U.S. statement said the naval exercises gave commanders the flexibility and capabilities “that only the U.S. Navy can command”.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies