• The Chinese Foreign Ministry accused the US of destabilizing the contested waterway, and Chinese media boasted about China's ability to target US aircraft carriers with anti-ship weapons.
  • In a tweet Sunday, the US Navy said that it is "not intimidated," and a meme posted by the Navy on Instagram stressed that it has no plans to leave the South China Sea.
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The US Navy tweeted Sunday that it is "not intimidated" by China's weapons, after Chinese media boasted about Beijing's "carrier killer" missiles in response to the presence of two US carrier strike groups in the South China Sea.

The Nimitz and Ronald Reagan carrier strike groups are conducting dual carrier operations in the contested waterway, over most of which Beijing claims sovereignty. The last time the US had two carriers operating in the South China Sea was nearly six years ago.

Aircraft from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 fly in formation over the Nimitz Carrier Strike Force (CSF). The USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Carrier Strike Groups are conducting dual carrier operations in the Indo-Pacific as the Nimitz CSF.
Aircraft from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 fly in formation over the Nimitz Carrier Strike Force (CSF). The USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Carrier Strike Groups are conducting dual carrier operations in the Indo-Pacific as the Nimitz CSF.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sarah Christoph

Joint operations included "air defense exercises, tactical maneuvering drills, simulated long-range maritime strike scenarios, and coordinated air and surface exercises to maintain combat readiness and maritime superiority," the US Navy said in a statement .

On July 4, a B-52 Stratofortress bomber from Louisiana linked up with the carriers for combined operations.

The Global Times, a nationalist Chinese tabloid, argued Sunday that the "South China Sea is fully within the grasp of the Chinese People's Liberation Army," and "any US aircraft carrier movement in the region is solely at the pleasure of the PLA."

The incendiary paper pointed to Chinese anti-ship missiles, specifically the DF-21D and DF-26.

The US Navy responded on Twitter, writing that it is "not intimidated" by the Chinese arsenal and that the carriers are there "at our discretion."

The Navy has repeatedly stressed that it plans to continue to operate in the South China Sea despite opposition from Beijing, a point it drove home with a meme on Instagram Sunday.

Beijing sharply criticized the dual carrier operations Monday, with the Chinese Foreign Ministry accusing the US of flexing its muscles to "undermine the peace and stability in the South China Sea."

The two US Navy carrier strike groups were operating in the waterway at the same time Chinese naval forces were conducting military drills near the Paracel Islands, disputed territories China seized from Vietnam by force.

China has since constructed military outposts in the area. As Beijing attempts to cement its sovereignty, the US Navy has repeatedly challenged China's claims, routinely sending US warships to conduct freedom-of-navigation operations in nearby waters , most recently in late May.

The Department of Defense called the exercises near the Paracels "counterproductive," characterizing the drills as "the latest in a long string of PRC actions to assert unlawful maritime claims."

The South China Sea has long been a hotbed of tension between the US and China, both of which have stepped up their military activities in the region in recent months.

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