US navy
This US Navy photo obtained Oct. 28, 2016 shows the guided-missile destroyers USS Spruance (DDG 111), front, and USS Decatur (DDG 73) and the Military Sealift Command fleet oiler USNS Carl Brashear (T-AO 7) as they steam in formation in the Pacific Ocean following a joint exercise with the US Air Force 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron from Anderson Air Force Base, Guam,on October 27, 2016.
PO 2nd Class Will Gaskill/US Navy Media Content Operations/AFP
US Navy sails ship close to islands claimed by China
(Agence France-Presse) - September 14, 2019 - 9:32am

WASHINGTON, United States — The US Navy said that one of its destroyers had sailed close to the Chinese-controlled Paracel Islands in the South China Sea on Friday, asserting international freedom of navigation rights in the contested waters.

The USS Wayne E. Meyer guided-missile destroyer passed through the area of the Paracels east of Vietnam and South of China's Hainan Island without requesting permission from Beijing, or from Hanoi or Taipei, which also claim ownership of the archipelago.

The move could add to the tensions between the US and China, now bogged down in a grinding trade war, as Beijing pushes to expand its military reach globally.

"USS Wayne E. Meyer challenged the restrictions on innocent passage imposed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam and also contested China's claim to straight baselines enclosing the Paracel Islands," said Commander Reann Mommsen, spokesperson for the US 7th Fleet based in Japan.

"With these baselines, China has attempted to claim more internal waters, territorial sea, exclusive economic zone, and continental shelf than it is entitled under international law."

China has laid claim to nearly all of the South China Sea and has built numerous military outposts on the small islands and atolls of the region, angering other claimants Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

In recent months, the US military has stepped up its "freedom of navigation operations" or "FONOPS" in the region, irking Beijing but not sparking any direct confrontation thus far.

China has effectively drawn a property line around the whole of the Paracels archipelago -- which it calls the Xisha Islands -- to claim the entire territory.

But the United States says that does not accord with international law on archipelagos and territorial seas.

The FONOPS "demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows -- regardless of the location of excessive maritime claims and regardless of current events," Mommsen said.

SOUTH CHINA SEA ROW
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