The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its strike group steamed into the South China Sea on Friday, returning to the region after being deployed to the north Arabian Sea to support the US evacuation from Afghanistan.
The US Navy said the Japan-based carrier will conduct flight operations, maritime strike operations, anti-submarine operations, and tactical training while in the South China Sea, stoking tensions with Beijing.
The presence of US aircraft carriers in the South China Sea used to be rare, but now it is more common. The US Navy said this is the second time this year that the Ronald Reagan is operating in the disputed waters.
The Biden administration is focusing on building military alliances in the region to counter China, and that is reflected in statements by US military officers. “We look forward to leveraging our recent out-of-area experience as we return to the South China Sea and our rapidly growing alliances and partnerships dedicated to the Indo-Pacific,” said Rear Adm. Will Pennington, a commander in the strike group.
The US recently signed a military pact with the UK and Australia aimed at countering China in the region. Under the deal, Canberra will get nuclear-powered submarines, and the US will deploy more troops, aircraft, and missiles to Australia.