US destroyers sail in disputed South China Sea amid trade tensions. File photo/ Reuters
The US military said two of its warships sailed near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea on Monday, a move that could anger Beijing at a time of tense relations between the world’s two biggest economies.
The South China Sea is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the US-China relationship, which also include a trade war, US sanctions and Taiwan.
The US guided-missile destroyers Preble and Chung Hoon traveled within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson Reefs in the Spratly Islands, a US military spokesman told Reuters.
Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the Seventh Fleet, said that the “innocent passage” was “to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law.”