US Navy destroyer sails near disputed islands
WASHINGTON — A US Navy guided-missile destroyer on Monday sailed near disputed islands in the South China Sea where China has built military installations, as trade talks between the two countries kicked off.
The United States and its allies periodically send planes and warships through the area, which is claimed by China, to signal to Beijing their right under international law to pass through the waters.
The USS McCampbell sailed within 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles) of the Paracel Islands “to challenge excessive maritime claims,” US Pacific Fleet spokesperson Rachel McMarr told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
McMarr added that so-called “freedom of navigation” operations were “not about any one country, nor are they about making political statements.”
The sail-by came as Chinese and US officials kicked off talks in Beijing to find a solution to a bitter trade war that last year saw the two sides impose tariffs on more than $300 billion in total two-way trade.
“All operations … demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows. That is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe,” McMarr said.
The Paracel Islands are claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.
China asserts nearly all of the South China Sea as its territory, while Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts.
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