EXCLUSIVE: Pentagon sails destroyer near disputed island in South China Sea, officials say


Tensions in the South China Sea are growing as China rapidly develops man-made islands in the critical waterway. Fox News explains the conflict in the region and why the U.S. is paying close attention

For the second time since President Trump took office, the Pentagon dispatched a U.S. Navy warship to sail near a disputed island claimed by China in the South China Sea, two U.S. defense officials told Fox News.

The USS Stethem, a guided-missile destroyer based in Japan, sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island, which is part of the Paracel Islands located in the South China Sea between China and Vietnam.

The destroyer was trailed by a Chinese warship during its Sunday voyage.

While occupied by China, Vietnam and Taiwan also lay claim to the island. A defense official said the operation challenged Vietnam and Taiwan’s claims to Triton Island in addition to China.

Twelve nautical miles is the territorial boundary that extends beyond the shores of all nations, sailing inside that distance sends a signal the United States does not recognize the claim.

The move comes as the Trump administration appears to be losing patience with Beijing over its continued military build-up in the South China Sea. The U.S. has been frustrated with Beijing’s failure to reign in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

Triton Island is not one of China’s seven artificial islands in the region. It has been constructed in the past few years. The U.S. Navy last sailed a warship off the coast of Triton Island in October. The Obama administration conducted similar operations.