The U.S. Navy conducted two similar warships last month to challenge Chinese claims to Paracel and the Spratly Islands, and another similar operation near Paracel in March.
Lt. Anthony Janko, spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s 7th Flight, said in a statement: “On May 26 (local time), USS Mastin (DDG89) emphasized maritime rights and independence in the Paracel Islands in accordance with international law.”
The statement added, “By conducting this operation, the United States has shown that this waterlogging is beyond China’s legitimate claim to its territorial waters.”
A U.S. Navy official said Mustin passed within 12 nautical miles of Woody Island and Pyramid Rock in the archipelago. China has maintained an airfield on Woody Island and has landed a strategic bomber aircraft there in the past.
The Pentagon recently revealed that a Chinese ship had carried out “unsafe and unprofitable tactics” near Mastin during the April 14 incident, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn said.
The Paracel Islands have been claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan, and the United States has long said that Beijing militarized the islands in the South China Sea by installing military hardware and military facilities.
The U.S. military has recently accused China of trying to exploit the coronavirus to gain military and economic benefits in the region.