"We're exercising our right to operate in international waters," strike group Commander Rear Admiral Ronald Boxall said in the release. "Our presence here promotes peace and stability in the region."
The carefully worded statement did not describe the operation as a "freedom of navigation exercise," a term used by the United States when announcing passage of single warships through the region in October and again in January.
The release noted that Chinese Navy ships remained in the vicinity of the Stennis strike group during its time in the South China Sea.
"All bridge-to-bridge interactions between the sailors of both navies were professional," he added.
China has seized control and militarized several islands in the Spratly and Paracel island chains that bracket the South China Sea, one of the world’s most heavily transited international shipping lanes.
To counter the threat, the United States has pledged to conduct increasingly complex naval exercises near the islands.
The Stennis strike groups includes an aircraft carrier, guided missile destroyers, cruisers and other warships.