The USS George Washington, a nuclear-powered super-carrier, took part in a joint military naval drill with Japan on Thursday (November 28) in waters off southern Japan, just days after it participated in humanitarian relief operations in the Philippines.
While the U.S. Navy would not confirm the exact coordinates, they were able to say the event took place, at one point at least, some 186 miles south east of Japan's southern-most the islands of Okinawa.
This is in the general vicinity, though not within, the new airspace defence zone which China newly established last week.
China's airspace defence zone claims have raised the stakes in a territorial standoff between Beijing and Tokyo over the area, which includes the tiny uninhabited islands known as the Senkaku in Japan. Japan claims they are part of the Okinawan islands.
The zone includes the skies over the long-disputed islands and China said planes flying in the area would have to notify Chinese authorities.
The United States defied China's demand that airplanes flying near the islands identify themselves to Chinese authorities, flying two unarmed B-52 bombers over the islands on Tuesday (November 26) without informing Beijing.
Rear admiral Mark Montgomery told reporters on board the USS George Washington that the exercises were planned before China's announcement of the zone.
"We planned this exercise a year ago. We are executing it almost exactly as originally planned 12 months ago. I don't think we tailor anything uniquely to any geopolitical conditions that may have changed in the past 12 months," Montgomery said.