WASHINGTON, June 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy deployed two aircraft carriers near the South China Sea on Saturday in an exercise designed to calm Asian allies in the region and to make a show of military force to the Chinese.
The aircraft carriers USS John C. Stennis and USS Ronald Reagan arrived in the Philippine Sea for exercises on Saturday ahead of a key international court ruling on China's claims in the disputed South China Sea. The exercise will feature more than 12,000 sailors, 140 aircraft and six other ships, the U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement.
"This is a great opportunity for us to train in a high-end scenario," Rear Adm. John D. Alexander, commander of the Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture-based Carrier Strike Group 5, said in the statement. "We must take advantage of these opportunities to practice war-fighting techniques that are required to prevail in modern naval operations."
The exercises took place on the eastern side of the Philippines, close to the South china Sea, a spokesman for the Pacific Fleet said.
The drills demonstrated the US is "resolute," said Philippine defense department spokesman Peter Galvez, in meeting its "iron-clad commitment" to defend the Philippines.
An international arbitration court in The Hague is deliberating Philippine charges filed in 2013 against China's claims on the South China Sea. The ruling is expected in a few weeks.