Oct. 15 (UPI) -- The aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan and its strike group returned to the South China Sea Thursday.
The carrier, which transited to the region for the third time in its current underway period, is joined by Carrier Air Wing 5, the guided-missile cruiser Antietam and the guided-missile destroyers John S. McCain and Halsey.
It passed through the Strait of Malacca and entered the South China Sea on Monday.
The strike group was last in the South China Sea in August, but had recently operated in the Indian Ocean.
"While in the South China Sea, the strike group is conducting maritime security operations, which include flight operations with fixed and rotary wing aircraft, maritime strike exercises, and coordinated tactical training between surface and air units," said a statement from U.S. 7th Fleet.
In recent months the United States and allied countries have continued to send ships to the region to signal that the waters should remain international, but the region has been contested.
"Throughout our deployment, we continue our long tradition demonstrating the United States' commitment to the lawful use of the seas and maintaining open access to the international commons," strike group commander Rear Adm. George Wikoff said in a statement.