A US aircraft carrier showcased its military might in the South China Sea, off Vietnam, in what some see as a strategic show of force towards China over troubled waters.

The mission is part of Washington’s “pivot to Asia”, a policy against what the US deems as Chinese aggression in the region over territorial disputes with its neighbors, particularly Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea.

Vietnamese security and government officials were on board the USS George Washington, making it’s third visit to the country, in a bid to bolster the military relationship between the two nations. The US has also been building closer economic ties with Hanoi. The US’ closer engagement with Vietnam and the Philippines is likely to reassure both countries of American support in the dispute with China over the territories, AP reports.

This follows Beijing’s own show of flexing its military muscle amid mounting tensions with Japan over a territorial dispute in the East China Sea. China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, a vital shipping lane for major economies like the US.