- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 30, 2016

A U.S. Navy ship sailed near a disputed island in the South China Sea on Saturday to challenge “excessive maritime claims that restrict the rights and freedoms of the United States and others,” a defense official said.

The USS Curtis Wilbur destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island without notifying three claimants to the surrounding waters beforehand, The New York Times reported.

“This operation challenged attempts by the three claimants, China, Taiwan and Vietnam, to restrict navigation rights and freedoms around the features they claim by policies that require prior permission or notification of transit within territorial seas,” Cmdr. Bill Urban said, CNN reported.

“This operation demonstrates, as President Obama and Secretary [Ashton] Carter have stated, the United States will fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows. That is true in the South China Sea, as in other places around the globe,” he added.

Defense Department spokesman Mark Wright told The Times that while the U.S. was demonstrating its freedom of navigation in the area, it took no position on the competing territorial claims to the Spratly Islands.

China, which has been building artificial islands in the region to house warplanes, denounced the action.

Cui Tiankai, the Chinese ambassador to the United States, called the move a “very serious provocation, politically and militarily.”

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