United States destroyer sails close to contested island in South China Sea

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"All operations are designed in accordance with global law and demonstrate that the U.S. will fly, sail and operate wherever worldwide law allows", Lt. Cdr.

A news report of the USA navy's mission came on the same day that the Chinese navy was supposed to carry out combat drills on the South China Sea.

Li Fung (李風), secretary-general of the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, said Saturday that this response was harsher than past responses from Beijing regarding USA warships in the area, and could signify that it is no longer going to tolerate such behavior.

In October 2017, the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Chafee also sailed close to the Paracels, provoking a stern reaction from the Chinese Defense Ministry.

Correction: The story has been corrected to state that USA defense officials confirmed the operation Friday. "The Chinese military is firmly opposed to it".

The US Navy conducts regular Freedom of Navigation operations in the region with the unstated goal of challenging China's huge, disputed territorial claims in the South China Sea.

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The block lies near the U-shaped "nine-dash line" that marks the vast area that China claims in the sea and overlaps what it says are its own oil concessions.

The United States has criticized China's construction of islands and buildup of military facilities in the area, and is concerned they could be used to restrict free nautical movement.

Briefing reporters on Friday, ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called on Washington to respect regional countries' efforts aimed at securing peace and stability in the South China Sea. 'By repeatedly sending military ships into these areas without authorization, the United States has seriously harmed Chinese sovereignty and security, violated basic rules of worldwide relations, and harmed regional peace and stability'. The exercises were described as a routine part of the PLA Navy's annual plan to "test and improve the troops' training level and comprehensively enhance the capability to win". The US military put countering China and Russian Federation at the center of a new national defense strategy recently unveiled.

The guided-missile destroyer, the USS Dewey sailed within 12 nautical miles of the artificial Mischief Reef in the South China Sea's Spratly Islands at the time.

Vietnam has suspended a second oil drilling project in the South China Sea in less than a year, after pressure from China which claims a large swath of the sea, Reuters reported on Friday, quoting three sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

In July a year ago, Vietnam called off another drilling expedition in the South China Sea after reported pressure from Beijing.