MILITARY

Top Philippine officials fly to US carrier in disputed sea

  • With smoke created by a F18 fighter jet taking off crewmen prepare the next one aboard the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) off the disputed South China Sea Friday, March 3, 2017. The U.S. military took journalists Friday to the carrier on routine patrol off the disputed South China Sea, sending a signal to China and American allies of its resolve to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight in one of the world's security hotspots.(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

    With smoke created by a F18 fighter jet taking off crewmen prepare the next one aboard the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) off the disputed South China Sea Friday, March 3, 2017. The U.S. military took journalists Friday to the carrier on routine patrol off the disputed South China Sea, sending a signal to China and American allies of its resolve to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight in one of the world's security hotspots.(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)  (The Associated Press)

  • A U.S. Navy F18 fighter jet from the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) for a patrol off the disputed South China Sea Friday, March 3, 2017. The U.S. military took journalists Friday to the carrier on routine patrol off the disputed South China Sea, sending a signal to China and American allies of its resolve to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight in one of the world's security hotspots.(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

    A U.S. Navy F18 fighter jet from the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) for a patrol off the disputed South China Sea Friday, March 3, 2017. The U.S. military took journalists Friday to the carrier on routine patrol off the disputed South China Sea, sending a signal to China and American allies of its resolve to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight in one of the world's security hotspots.(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)  (The Associated Press)

  • A U.S. Navy F18 fighter jet lands on the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) following a routine patrol off the disputed South China Sea Friday, March 3, 2017. The U.S. military took journalists Friday to the carrier on routine patrol off the disputed South China Sea, sending a signal to China and American allies of its resolve to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight in one of the world's security hotspots.(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

    A U.S. Navy F18 fighter jet lands on the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) following a routine patrol off the disputed South China Sea Friday, March 3, 2017. The U.S. military took journalists Friday to the carrier on routine patrol off the disputed South China Sea, sending a signal to China and American allies of its resolve to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight in one of the world's security hotspots.(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)  (The Associated Press)

U.S. officials say three Philippine Cabinet members, including the defense chief, have toured a U.S. aircraft carrier patrolling the disputed South China Sea on the invitation of the Navy.

U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Molly Koscina says Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II visited the USS Carl Vinson Saturday along with three Philippine security officials.

The nuclear-powered carrier group has been patrolling the contested waters to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight in a region China claims virtually in its entirety.

The visit shows continuing top-level engagements between Philippine officials with the U.S. military despite President Rodrigo Duterte's threat to scale back engagements with American forces while reaching out to China and Russia.