Two US-led missile destroyers on Monday sailed near the Chinese man-made island of Mischief Reef in the South China Sea, the location of several territorial conflicts that have increased the tension in the region.
Last year, China added surface-to-air missiles to the disputed island, one of three populated by the Chinese military in 201
Destroyers carried the passage illustrating the continued US military presence in the area routinely by China opposite.
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Cmdr. Clay Doss, US Seventh Fleet Public Affairs Officer, told Fox News in a statement: "Guided missile destroyers USS Spruance (DDG 111) and USS Preble (DDG 88) conducted the freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS) in the South China Sea. Spruance and Preble sailed within 12 miles of the Spratly Islands to challenge excessive maritime demands and preserve access to waterways regulated by international law. "
The warships were shaded by Chinese possessions, but the interactions were routine and unintentional, according to a separate US official.
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Doss added: "We perform routine and regular freedom to Navigation Operations (FONOPS) that we have done earlier and will continue in the future. FONOPs are not about a country, nor are they about political statements. "
China is banned from smaller neighbors in several disputes in the South China Sea over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in the water that are critical to global trade and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves.
Said Doss: "US Defense operates in the Indo-Pacific every day, including in the South China Sea. All operations are designed in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate where there is international law permission. true in the South China Sea as in other places around the world. "
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The operation came as the Trump administration prepared for another round of negotiations with the Chinese government.
Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin heads a delegation set up to meet Chinese officials Thursday and Friday. The negotiations are aimed at resolving a trade war that threatens to stunt global economic growth, including by increasing the prices of goods to consumers and businesses, officials said. The situation may get worse as a ceasefire on tariffs has expired in early March.
Fox News & # 39; Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.