US Has Two Carrier Strike Groups in South China Sea as Tensions Rise

First time two strike groups were in South China Sea in six years

For the second time this month, the US has sent two carrier strike groups, representing the USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan, into the South China Sea. The Navy says they are showing a commitment to “international order.”

The two carriers first entered the area for joint drills around July 4, and are back again, this time seemingly just passing through to make a public presence at a time when the US and China are on very tense terms over the South China Sea.

Before these two visits, the US had not had two carriers in these waters in six years, reflecting just what a priority the administration views claims in the sea, and the US interest in rejecting China’s claims to various islands there.

China in one of several nations with claims in the South China Sea. In all cases where claims overlap, the US backs the other nation over China, and has emphasized they won’t allow China to just claim broad chunks of the sea.

Interest in the South China Sea both reflects its heavy use in trade, and the reality that off-shore oil and gas deposits are believed to be vast, and whoever claims those islands would be allowed to exploit them. Unlike China, most of the other nations in the area would have to turn to another nation, likely the US, for production.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of