The U.S. military said two of its warships sailed near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea on Monday, a move that angered Beijing at a time of tense ties between the world’s two biggest economies.
The busy waterway is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the U.S.-China relationship, which also include a trade war, U.S. sanctions and Taiwan.
President Donald Trump dramatically increased pressure on China to reach a trade deal by threatening to hike U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods this week and soon target hundreds of billions more.
The U.S. guided-missile destroyers Preble and Chung Hoon traveled within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson Reefs in the Spratly Islands, a U.S. military spokesman said.
Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the Seventh Fleet, said the “innocent passage” aimed “to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law”.