An F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet lands on the deck of the U.S. Navy USS Ronald Reagan in the South China Sea, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018. China is allowing the carrier and its battle group to make a port call in Hong Kong after it earlier turned down a similar request amid tensions with Washington. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

US carrier in Hong Kong after bombers fly over S. China Sea

November 21, 2018 - 1:10 am

HONG KONG (AP) — A U.S. aircraft carrier docked in Hong Kong on Wednesday, days after a pair of American B-52 bombers flew over the disputed South China Sea.

The arrival of the USS Ronald Reagan and its battle group in the Asian financial hub comes after China rejected a similar request by another U.S. Navy ship amid a spike in tensions between the countries' militaries.

China has demanded the U.S. cease military activity of all kind near its South China Sea island claims that it has been rapidly fortifying.

In late September, a Chinese destroyer came close to the USS Decatur in the South China Sea in what the U.S. Navy called an "unsafe and unprofessional maneuver."

The Navy said in a statement that interactions were planned with Hong Kong citizens through sports, community relations projects and tours of the Reagan. More than 4,400 men and women are usually aboard the carrier.

"The abundant growth and prosperity that surrounds us in Hong Kong is what the United States Seventh Fleet seeks to preserve for all nations in this important region," Rear Adm. Karl O. Thomas, commander of Carrier Strike Group 5, said in the statement.

Meanwhile, U.S. Pacific Air Forces said two B-52 bombers flew over the South China Sea on Monday, calling it a "routine training mission."

The B-52H Stratofortress bombers departed Andersen Air Force Base in Guam as part of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command's Continuous Bomber Presence operations that began in 2004, Pacific Air Forces said in a statement Wednesday.

"This recent mission is consistent with international law and United States' long-standing commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific," the statement said.

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