Beijing: A U.S. Navy warship sailed close to a disputed South China Sea island controlled by China, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.
China has previously described such operations as a serious breach of law and an intentional provocation. However, this is the first such encounter under U.S. President Donald Trump.
The USS Dewey sailed within 12 miles (20 kilometers) of Mischief Reef, in the Spratly Island chain, on Wednesday, in a “freedom of navigation operation,” the CNN reported citing a U.S. official.
Meanwhile, Pentagon spokesperson Capt. Jeff Davis said, “We operate in the Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea”, even though he didn’t confirm details of the particular operation.
“We operate in accordance with international law. We fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” he added.
China claims ownership of the vast majority of the South China Sea, including the Paracel and Spratly island chains, a claim disputed by numerous other countries including the Philippines and Vietnam.
Reportedly, the U.S. military had requested permission to perform a freedom of navigation operation earlier this year, but, it was turned down by the Pentagon as part of an effort to ease US- China relations.