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U.S. Navy Sends Message With Dual-Carrier Ops in South China Sea

dual carrier
An F/A-18 aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt prepares to take off with USS Nimitz in the background (USN)

Published Feb 9, 2021 5:53 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Tuesday, two U.S. Navy aircraft carriers met up in the South China Sea to carry out joint exercises, sending an early message to other nearby powers on the Biden administration's stance on regional claims.  

The carriers USS Nimitz, USS Theodore Roosevelt and their escorts conducted dual-carrier flight exercises at an undisclosed "highly trafficked area" in the South China Sea. 

"Through operations like this, we ensure that we are tactically proficient to meet the challenge of maintaining peace and we are able to continue to show our partners and allies in the region that we are committed to promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific," said Rear Adm. Doug Verissimo, commander of Carrier Strike Group 9. 

The last time the U.S. conducted dual carrier operations in the South China Sea was in July 2020, when the USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz carrier strike groups operated together twice in the region.

"Working cooperatively alongside Carrier Strike Group 9 improves our collective tactical skill while ensuring regional stability and security," said Rear Adm. Jim Kirk, commander of CSG 11. "We are committed to ensuring the lawful use of the sea that all nations enjoy under international law."

USS Nimitz departed Bremerton in April 2020 and spent months standing by in the Middle East, serving as a deterrent during a period of elevated tensions with Iran. USS Theodore Roosevelt departed San Diego for the Indo-Pacific on December 23, marking her second deployment in a year's time. 

China claims the majority of the South China Sea as its own, and it regularly objects to U.S. military exercises in the area. In a daily briefing in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin registered his government's disapproval. 

"The United States frequently sent vessels and aircraft to the South China Sea to flex its muscles. This is not conducive to peace and stability in the region," Wenbin said. "China will continue to take necessary measures to firmly defend national sovereignty and security and work together with regional countries to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea."