F/A-18E Super Hornets launch from the flight deck of the USS Theodore Roosevelt on Tuesday. Navy photo

The Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group has entered the disputed South China Sea for the second time on its current deployment from San Diego, the Navy announced Tuesday.

The Navy said the nuclear-powered USS Theodore Roosevelt and accompanying San Diego-based warships USS Bunker Hill and USS Russell began the freedom-of-navigation mission on Sunday in international waters near China.

“It is great to be back in the South China Sea to reassure our allies and partners that we remain committed to freedom of the seas,” said Rear Adm. Doug Verissimo, commander of Carrier Strike Group Nine. “Over the course of the strike group’s deployment, we have demonstrated our commitment to the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region by operating with our friends from Australia, India, Japan, Malaysia and South Korea.”

While in the South China Sea, the strike group will conduct flight operations, maritime strike exercises, anti-submarine operations and coordinated tactical training.

“I could not be more proud of the hard work and professionalism that this crew has shown every day during this deployment,” said Capt. Eric Anduze, the Roosevelt’s commanding officer. “Our sailors’ tenacity and warfighting prowess is unmatched and is a testament to our Navy’s resolve to maintain free and prosperous seas.”

China has fortified a series of tiny island in the South China Sea and claims wide jurisdiction over areas that the United States considers international waters.

The Roosevelt and its accompanying ships are operating in the 7th Fleet, which commands as many as 70 ships and submarines in the Western Pacific and Indian oceans.

The Roosevelt departed San Diego on December 23.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.