Navy destroyer sails past Chinese-claimed reef in South China Sea


A US warship on Sunday sailed within 12 nautical miles of the disputed Scarborough Shoal — territory claimed by the Chinese military — in an attempt to “challenge” Beijing’s “excessive maritime claims” in the South China Sea, officials said.

The move, carried out by the guided-missile destroyer USS Preble, comes amid heightened tensions between China and the US following the countries’ failed trade talks.

“Preble sailed within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough Reef in order to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law,” explained Cmdr. Clayton Doss, a spokesman for the Navy’s Seventh Fleet, in a statement.
He said the maneuver was part of a Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) in the South China Sea — the second to be conducted this month.

Two US destroyers, the Preble and USS Chung-Hoon, traveled within 12 nautical miles of the Gaven and Johnson Reefs in the Spratly Islands on May 6.

The Trump administration has repeatedly challenged China’s militarization of the region.

“All operations are designed in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows,” Doss said. “That is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe.”