US destroyers in disputed waters at Mischief Reef

Two US warships sailed near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea on Monday, a move likely to anger Beijing at a time of tense relations between the countries with the world’s two biggest economies.

Beijing and Washington are locked in a trade war and are negotiating a deal ahead of a March 1 deadline when US tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese imports are expected to increase to 25 per cent from 10 per cent.

A US official said two guided-missile destroyers travelled within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands.

The operation was the latest attempt to counter what Washington claims is Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in waters where Chinese, Japanese and some southeast Asian navies operate.

It was the second such mission by the United States this year. In early January, the destroyer USS McCampbell sailed within 12 nautical miles of the

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