US destroyer sails by disputed islands, shadowed by Chinese warships

One day after sailing through the Taiwan Strait, the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain conducted a freedom of navigation operation near the disputed Paracel Islands while shadowed by Chinese warships.

All interactions were safe and professional, officials told Fox News. U.S. forces operate in the South China Sea on a daily basis, as they have for more than a century.

This is the first freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea since President Biden took office.

“Unlawful and sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea pose a serious threat to the freedom of the sea, including freedoms of navigation and overflight, free trade and unimpeded commerce and freedom of economic opportunity for South China sea littoral nations,” 7th Fleet spokesperson Lt. Joe Keiley said in a statement. “The United States upholds freedom of navigation as a principle.”

“As long as some countries continue to assert maritime claims that are inconsistent with international law as reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention and that purports to restrict unlawfully the rights and freedoms guaranteed to all States, the United States will continue to defend those rights and freedoms,” Keiley added.

Keiley noted that the Paracel Islands remain a fiercely-contested area, with China, Taiwan and Vietnam each claiming sovereignty. All three claimants require permission or advanced notice before an “innocent passage” through the sea.

Passing through the area without any prior notification or permission stands as a challenge to the “unlawful restrictions” imposed by each country.

The journey doesn’t pass without notice, though. Beijing has long been irked by the U.S. Navy’s Taiwan Strait transits and freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.

Chinese warships had tailed McCain through the Taiwan Strait on Thursday during a…

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