US warship sailed this Friday (5) near the Paracel Islands, controlled by China, located in the South China Sea, a region under dispute, in a free navigation operation, the United States Navy said. , the first such mission under President Joe Biden's new government.
The Chinese Armed Forces condemned the action, saying they had sent naval and air units to accompany and remove the ship.
The bustling naval route is one of the many critical points in relations between the US and China, which include a trade war, US sanctions, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
China is irritated by repeated US sailings near islands that Beijing occupies and controls in the South China Sea. China says it has irrefutable sovereignty over the areas and has accused Washington of deliberately heightening tensions.
The US Navy's Seventh Fleet said destroyer John S. McCain "claimed rights of navigation and freedom in the vicinity of the Paracel Islands, consistent with international law."
The free navigation operation underpinned the rights, freedoms and legal use of the sea, recognized by international law, by challenging "illegal restrictions on innocent crossings imposed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam," he said.
China took full control of the Paracels in 1974 after a short battle with the forces of South Vietnam. Vietnam, like Taiwan, continues to claim the islands.
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