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US destroyers sail in disputed South China Sea amid tense relations
[WASHINGTON] The US military said two of its warships sailed near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea on Monday, a move that could anger Beijing at a time of tense relations between the world's two biggest economies.
The US guided-missile destroyers Preble and Chung Hoon traveled within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson Reefs in the Spratly Islands, a US military spokesman told Reuters.
Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the Seventh Fleet, said that the "innocent passage" was "to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law."
The South China Sea is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the US-China relationship, which also include a trade war, US sanctions and Taiwan.
On Sunday, US President Donald Trump vowed to hike tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods this week and target hundreds of billions more soon. Shortly after, the Wall Street Journel reported that China is considering cancelling trade talks with the United States this week.