USS Ronald Reagan and Nimitz head towards South China Sea

190722-N-PJ626-5091 CORAL SEA (July 22, 2019) The U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) cruises during Talisman Sabre 2019. Talisman Sabre 2019 illustrates the closeness of the Australian and U.S. alliance and the strength of the military-to-military relationship. This is the eighth iteration of this exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila V. Peters/Released)

The U.S. is sending two aircraft carriers into one of Asia’s hottest spots to deliver a pointed message to China that it doesn’t appreciate Beijing’s military ramp-up in the region.

The USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz are set to hold some of the U.S. Navy’s largest exercises in recent years in the South China Sea from Saturday—at the same time that China is holding drills in the area.

With tensions rising between the two over trade, the coronavirus pandemic and China’s crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong, U.S. officials said they wanted to challenge what they called Beijing’s unlawful territorial claims.

“The purpose is to show an unambiguous signal to our partners and allies that we are committed to regional security and stability,” said Rear Adm. George M. Wikoff, commander of the strike group led by the USS Ronald Reagan, in an interview.

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