The two guided-missile destroyers sailed near the Chinese manmade islands of Mischief Reef. Tensions in the region have soared recently as the US has continued to show its military presence while Beijing has tried to increase its territory in the area. The two warships completed their passage in a move that China has constantly objected to.
Commander Clay Doss said: “US Forces operate in the Indo-Pacific region on a daily basis, 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 wherever international law allows.
“That is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe.”
Commander Doss also added that the two warships were there to “preserve access” to waterways “governed by international law”.
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The USS Preble and Spruance sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Spratly Islands in a show of US naval strength in the region.
They were both shadowed by Chinese assets although the routine was a“routine” exercise.
Mischief Reef lies in the archipelago of the Spratly Islands which has been one of the most contested areas in the South China Sea.
Commander Doss also insisted: “We conduct routine and regular Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPS), as we have done in the past and will continue to in the future.
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“FONOPs are not about any one country, nor are they about making political statements.”
As China seeks to become the dominant global powers, it has heavily invested in its navy which is now one of the largest in the world and capable of competing with the US.
It has used that navy to bully some of the smaller countries in the region, namely the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan.
In opposition to this, Washington routinely conducts freedom of navigation operations to maintain the area as part of international waters.