The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group and accompanying San Diego-based warships entered the tense South China Sea area on Thursday, the Navy announced.
The Kitsap, WA-based aircraft carrier is accompanied by the San Diego-based guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill and guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur as well as warships from Pearl Harbor.
China claims much of the strategic waterway, which stretches from Indonesia to the island democracy of Taiwan, and has criticized Navy operations in the area.
“Carrier operations in the South China Sea are part of the U.S. Navy’s routine operations in the Indo-Pacific,” the Navy counters.
Embarked on the Nimitz is Carrier Air Wing 17 with jet fighters and helicopters from Naval Air Station Lemoore in the the Central Valley.
The Navy said the strike group’s mission involves “protecting the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea, and upholding the rules-based international order alongside Allies and partners” and warned the warships and aircraft can “deliver overwhelming maritime force if called upon.”
Also in the region is a San Diego-based amphibious ready group led by the assault carrier USS Makin Island and accompanied by the amphibious transport docks USS John P. Murtha and USS Anchorage.
The ships and embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Pendleton left the West Coast on Nov. 9.