“USS Chancellorsville sailed near the Paracel Islands to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law,” US Pacific Fleet spokesman Nathan Christensen said in a statement.
The US warship conducted the operation near the islands – known in China as the Xisha Islands – to challenge claims made by China, Christensen added.
The Chancellorsville was shadowed by a Chinese vessel during the operation but all interactions were deemed safe and professional, two anonymous US officials were quoted by CNN as saying, adding that China later issued a formal diplomatic protest about the cruiser’s operation.
“We urge the US to strengthen the management of its vessels and aircraft that pass by Chinese territory to prevent unexpected events,” People’s Liberation Army Southern Theatre spokesman Li Huamin said in a statement.
The United States’ latest such operation in the South China Sea comes weeks after US and Chinese warships nearly collided with each other in the disputed waters on September 30, raising grave concerns of a potential military mishap between the two militaries.
It also further raised tensions days ahead of the upcoming meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Donald Trump at the G20 leaders’ summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The two presidents are expected to discuss a ceasefire to their countries’ prolonged tit-for-tat trade war.