The U.S. sent two aircraft carrier strike groups for joint operations in the disputed South China Sea on Tuesday, the Navy said, as new President Joe Biden shows no signs of backing down from Beijing’s growing maritime assertiveness in the area.

The dual carrier operations in the flash point waterway were the first there since last July and come just under three weeks since Biden was sworn into office on Jan. 20. The new administration has called China the United States’ “most critical challenge” and “most serious competitor.”

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