The US government sent two warships into the South China Sea close to disputed islands on Monday, a move meant to threaten the Chinese government. The USS Spruance and USS Preble both guided-missile destroyers sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Spratly Islands in what the US Navy calls a “freedom of navigation operation.”
The Chinese government accused the US government of trying to “stir up trouble” by sending the destroyers to the disputed islands. The US military operation was the second this year in the South China Sea. The destroyer USS McCampbell sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands in January. Shortly after, the Chinese government accused the US government of trespassing in its territorial waters.
In September, the USS Decatur sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Spratly Islands as part of a similar freedom of navigation operation. In response, a Chinese Navy destroyer was dispatched and came within 45 yards of the US Navy warship. The US labeled the Chinese warship’s actions unsafe and unprofessional, while the Chinese government said the US government was threatening the safety and sovereignty of China.
The operation was conducted as both governments take part in trade talks this week, with the possibility of entering into an all-out trade war between the world’s two biggest economies.