The US Defense Secretary has added his support for the work of the Royal Navy-led Carrier Strike Group as it travels through the South China Sea, whilst criticising Beijing's claim to much of the region.
Lloyd Austin emphasised the area's importance to America and pledged support for local partners and allies, during a visit to Singapore.
He also stressed his belief in the power of deterrence and supporting the rule of international maritime law.
Mr Austin told reporters: "Beijing’s claim to the vast majority of the South China Sea has no basis in international law.
"That assertion treads on the sovereignty of the states in the region."
He also had a special mention for the Royal Navy’s flagship: "The HMS Queen Elizabeth is sailing through this region as a flagship of a multi-nation carrier strike group that includes a US destroyer and a US Marine Corps F-35 squadron."
The Royal Navy's carrier's maiden voyage continues to keep her in the international spotlight.
Meanwhile, HMS Defender has split off from the rest of the Carrier Strike Group for a port visit to Brunei, after her controversial passage through the Black Sea.
The destroyer's Commanding Officer, Commander Vincent Owen said the forthcoming period will be busy: "We're going to be operating in the Indo Pacific region for the next couple of months with the partners in the region".