US Destroyer Sails Near Disputed South China Sea Island
A U.S. Navy destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of a tiny, disputed island in the South China Sea that is claimed by three Asian governments. Triton Island is claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.
China deployed military vessels and fighter jets to the area Sunday, accusing the USS Stethem of trespassing.
A U.S. government official said the Stethem was conducting a routine “right of innocent passage” exercise,” meant to demonstrate freedom of navigation in the disputed waters.
Lu Kang, China’s foreign ministry spokesman said, in a statement, the U.S. move was “a serious political and military provocation” and that such operations “violate China’s sovereignty and threaten China’s security.”
Authorities say the sailing of the Stethem within 12 nautical miles of the island was meant to indicate that the U.S. does not recognize territorial claims to the island.