On board the USS Ronald Reagan in October 16, 2019. Photo: Catherine Lai/AFP/Getty Images

Two U.S. aircraft carriers—the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Nimitz—are heading toward the South China Sea to conduct military exercises just as China is conducting drills in the area as well, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The big picture: China claims sovereignty over most of the sea, which other Southeast Asian countries reject, per the Journal. Tensions between the U.S. and China also remain high over trade, the coronavirus pandemic and China's recent effort to exert more control over Hong Kong.

Between the lines per Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian: The show of military force is intended to convey to Beijing that its recent provocative acts in the South China Sea have not gone unnoticed.

What they're saying: Rear Adm. George M. Wikoff, commander of a strike group led by USS Ronald Reagan, said, "The purpose is to show an unambiguous signal to our partners and allies that we are committed to regional security and stability.”

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