WASHINGTON (AP) – A US Navy warship on Friday passed through waters claimed by China near disputed islands in the South China Sea, the Defense Department said, drawing Chinese condemnation.
A department spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Gary Ross, said the destroyer ship USS Decatur conducted the transit operation near the Paracel Islands. He said it was done “in a routine, lawful manner without ship escorts and without incident.” A Chinese defense ministry statement called it “a gravely illegal act” and “intentionally provocative.”
The Chinese navy sent a guided missile destroyer and an escort vessel that “spotted and verified the American ships and warned them to leave,” the statement said. Ross said there was just one US vessel involved.