US sails 2 warships close to disputed island chain in South China Sea
The US sailed two warships close to the disputed islands in the South China Sea on Monday to challenge China’s excessive maritime claim, according to a media report which said the move is certain to draw the ire of Beijing.The guided-missile destroyers USS Spruance and USS Preble sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Spratly Islands as part of what the US Navy calls a “freedom of navigation operation,” CNN reported.
The move likely to anger Beijing at a time when the US and China ton are locked in a trade war and are negotiating a deal ahead of a March 1 deadline when US tariffs on USD 200 billion worth of Chinese imports are expected to increase to 25 per cent from 10 per cent.The Spratly Islands are a disputed group of islands, islets and cays and more than 100 reefs, sometimes grouped in submerged old atolls, in the South China Sea. The archipelago lies off the coasts of the Philippines, Malaysia, and southern Vietnam.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it. Monday’s operation was carried out “to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law,” Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the US Navy’s 7th Fleet.