BANGKOK (AP) — A U.S. warship sailed near a disputed island in the South China Sea on Saturday to exercise the U.S.'s freedom to navigate in international waters, a defense official said.
The USS Curtis Wilbur destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island, in the Paracels chain, without notifying the three claimants to the surrounding seas beforehand, according to Defense Department spokesman Mark Wright in Washington.
China, Taiwan and Vietnam have claims in the Paracels and require prior notice from ships transiting in nearby waters.
Wright reiterated that while insisting on freedom of navigation, the United States took no position on the competing territorial claims to natural islands in the South China Sea.
In October, another U.S. warship sailed in the disputed Spratly Islands near Subi Reef, where China has built an artificial island.
U.S. officials said after that operation that such ship movements would be regular in the future.
China protested the October sail-by strongly. It had no immediate comment on Saturday's movements.
China says virtually the entire South China Sea and its islands, reefs and atolls is its sovereign territory, although five other regional governments have overlapping claims.