US sails destroyers near Chinese archipelago: Official
The United States has reportedly sailed two destroyers close to the Nansha archipelago in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety despite Washington’s objection.
The two guided-missile destroyers traveled within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the archipelago, which is also known as Spratly Islands, on Monday, Reuters reported, citing an American official speaking on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, Cmdr. Clay Doss, a spokesman for the US Navy's 7th Fleet, told CNN, the operation was conducted "to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law."
"All operations are designed in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows," Doss said, adding "that is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe."
The US, which has been taking sides with several of China’s neighboring countries in their territorial disputes, accused China of undertaking a land reclamation program by building artificial islands in the sea.
Beijing asserts its sovereignty over nearly all of the contested sea, which serves as a crossing for more $5 trillion worth of maritime trade annually.
Washington regularly dispatches its warships and warplanes to the waters in a move, which Beijing denounces as provocation. The US’s allied countries have also been staging naval operations near the island, similarly to Beijing’s disappointment.
The new operation is the second in the South China Sea reported by the US Navy so far this year.
Last month, the US' guided-missile destroyer, USS McCampbell, sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Xisha Island chain, called Paracel by Beijing’s rivals.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry reacted to the move, saying in a statement that the US violated China’s law.
The new operation comes as the United States and China are separately locked in a trade war.