China has accused the US of flexing its "military muscle" in the South China Sea after conducting joint exercises with two aircraft carrier groups.
China's foreign ministry spokesperson said the drills were performed “totally out of ulterior motives” and undermined stability in the area.
Zhao Lijian said the US "deliberately dispatched massive forces to conduct large-scale military exercises to relevant waters of the South China Sea to flex its military muscle".
The US Navy said over the weekend that the USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan, along with their accompanying vessels, conducted exercises in the waters.
It said the drills were "designed to maximise air defence capabilities, and extend the reach of long-range precision maritime strikes from carrier-based aircraft in a rapidly evolving area of operations”.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea and consistently hits back at any US military action in the area.
Five other governments claim all or part of the sea, through which roughly £4 trillion of goods are shipped through every year.
China has looked to cement its claim to the waters by building military bases on coral atolls, prompting the US to sail warships through the region on so-called freedom of operations missions.
Although the US does not officially take a side on the numerous claims of ownership in the region, it is allied with several claimants and insists the waters and airspace should be free to all countries.
Cover image: USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz in the South China Sea (Picture: US Department of Defense).