US Navy Destroyer on ‘Freedom of Navigation’ Operation in S. China Sea

A U.S. Navy destroyer carried out a “freedom of navigation” operation on Friday in the South China Sea, the Reuters news agency reports.

Speaking exclusively to Reuters on condition of anonymity, U.S. officials said that the USS Mustin came within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, an artificial island built by China in the Spratly Islands, and carried out maneuvering operations.

Neither China’s Foreign nor Defense Ministries immediately responded to a request for comment by Reuters.

The U.S. has criticized China’s construction of islands and build-up of military facilities in the sea, and has expressed concerned they could be used to restrict free navigation in the strategic waters.

China has territorial disputes with its neighbors in South China Sea.

Friday’s operation, the first since January, comes one day after U.S. President Donald Trump signed a presidential memorandum that will target up to $60 billion in Chinese goods with tariffs, but only after a 30-day consultation period that starts once a list is published.

The U.S. military, however, has a longstanding position that its operations carried out throughout the world, including in areas claimed by allies, are separate from political considerations.

Meanwhile, China’s military newspaper said Friday that the country’s navy will carry out combat drills in the South China Sea, describing the move as part of regular annual exercises.

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