A U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG-73) has sailed close to disputed islands in the South China Sea on Sunday, CNN reported citing U.S. officials.
During the so-called Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP), USS Decatur came within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson reefs in the Spratly Islands.
The new development, which came amid heightened US-China tensions, is likely to irk China which claims most of the South China Sea. The two islets are also claimed by Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.
The last such FONOP mission took place in May when the U.S. Navy sailed two warships within 12 miles of four of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Air Force flew B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers over the South China Sea and East China Sea, areas considered sensitive by China. The flights drew protest from Beijing, which labeled them provocative.
China’s claims in the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes each year are contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.