U.S. strike group enters South China Sea as China deploys aircraft carrier

April 5 (UPI) — China’s deployment of its aircraft carrier to waters near Hainan Island is taking place as the U.S. Navy’s Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group enters the South China Sea, according to a Hong Kong press report.

Sing Tao Daily reported Thursday the U.S. group, led by Carrier Strike Group 9, concluded its port visit to Singapore on Tuesday and arrived in the South China Sea.

China has claimed as much as 90 percent of international waters as its own within what it calls the “nine-dash line” that extends more than 1,200 miles from the Chinese mainland.

News of U.S. movements in waters where China has militarized disputed islands follows reports the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is returning to its home port in San Diego after conducting joint exercises with Japanese forces in the Western Pacific.

The Roosevelt Strike Group includes the guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill and guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson, according to Singapore’s Straits Times.

The Roosevelt previously conducted drills in Asia.

In November 2017, the ship conducted exercises with the USS Ronald Reagan, the USS Nimitz and the South Korean Navy, according to Yonhap.

The U.S. deployment to the South China Sea is taking place as China is dispatching the Liaoning, its first aircraft carrier, to contested waters.

Hainan Province maritime authorities have issued a temporary ban on travel in waters near the Chinese island, because of military drills that are to take place from Thursday to Wednesday.

The South China Sea issue is a top U.S. priority, according to the State Department.

Patrick Murphy, principal deputy assistant secretary for Southeast Asia, said, “No one country should bully or coerce their way to resolve [the dispute]. International law provides a blueprint,” the Philippine Star reported Thursday.

Murphy said the South China Sea was discussed during the recent U.S.-ASEAN Dialogue in Kuala Lumpur.