Sept. 9 (UPI) -- The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group this week entered into the disputed South China Sea for the first time during its current deployment, the U.S. Navy announced.
While in the South China Sea, which is claimed by China and other countries in the region, the strike group will conduct flight operations with fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, maritime strike exercises, as well as coordinated tactical training between surface and air units, the Navy said Wednesday in a press release.
The strike group is deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area in the Indo-Pacific and includes the USS Carl Vinson, USS Lake Champlain, destroyer USS Chafee and combat ship USS Tulsa.
The operations are part of what the U.S. says is its routine presence in the Indo-Pacific region.
"The freedom of all nations to navigate in international waters is important, and especially vital in the South China Sea, where nearly a third of global maritime trade transits each year," Rear Adm. Dan Martin, Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group commander, said in a statement.
The USS Benfold conducted an operation earlier this week near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, a move that rankled Chinese authorities.
The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group has had an active presence in the region during the last month participating in the Large Scale Exercise 2021, conducting interoperability flights with Britain and bilateral exercises with Japan's Joint Maritime Self Defense Forces units.
Earlier in the week, the USS Carl Vinson became the first non-forward deployed carrier to port at Yokosuka, Japan, in nearly a decade to give its crew a rest.