US ship sails in South China Sea by Spratly Islands

Reuters

Posted at Feb 17 2021 03:33 PM

The guided-missile destroyer USS Russell (DDG 59) conducts routine underway operations. Russell is forward-deployed to the US 7th Fleet area of operations in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Wade Costin, US Navy 7th Fleet

WASHINGTON - A US Navy warship sailed by islands claimed by China in the South China Sea on Wednesday in a freedom of navigation operation, marking the latest move by Washington to challenge Beijing's territorial claims in the contested waters.

The US Navy's 7th Fleet said destroyer USS Russell "asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the Spratly Islands, consistent with international law."

China claims sovereignty over the entire archipelago, but Brunei, Malaysia, The Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have lodged competing claims for some or all of the islands.

China's extensive territorial claims in the resource-rich waters have become a hot button issue in an increasingly testy Sino-US relationship. 

The 2 countries are at odds over trade, the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hong Kong, Taiwan and accusations of human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims.

Washington has denounced what it called Beijing's attempts to bully neighbors with competing interests. China has repeatedly denounced what it called US efforts to foment unrest in the region and interfere in what it regards as its internal affairs.

The US ship's pass by the Spratly Islands follows a joint exercise by 2 US carrier groups in South China Sea and another warship sailing near Chinese-controlled Paracel islands earlier this month. 

Those actions had suggested that the Biden administration was not about to scale back operations challenging Beijing's claims after the ramp-up seen during the Trump administration. 

RELATED VIDEO

Watch more in iWantTFC