A U.S. guided-missile destroyer sailed near the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea claimed by China as U.S. officials meet their counterparts in Beijing for talks during a truce in a bitter trade war.
The USS McCampbell carried out a “freedom of navigation” operation, sailing within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Island chain, “to challenge excessive maritime claims”, Pacific Fleet spokeswoman Rachel McMarr said in an emailed statement.
The operation was not about any one country or to make a political statement, McMarr said.
The statement comes as trade talks between China and the United States are under way in Beijing, the first round of face-to-face discussions since both sides agreed to a 90-day truce in a trade war that has roiled international markets.
China claims almost all of the strategic waters, and frequently lambastes the United States and its allies for freedom of navigation naval operations near Chinese-occupied islands.
Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan have competing claims in the region.