The Paracel Islands are claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan. (Representational)Washington D.C.:
Challenging Beijing's claims in the highly contested South China Sea, US Navy's Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin on Thursday (local time) sailed near Paracel Islands, reported CNN.
"On May 28 (local time), USS Mustin (DDG 89) asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the Paracel Islands, consistent with international law," Lt. Anthony Junco, a spokesperson for the US Navy's 7th Fleet, was quoted as saying in a statement.
"By conducting this operation, the United States demonstrated that these waters are beyond what China can lawfully claim as its territorial sea," the statement added.
The Paracel Islands are claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan.
The move comes amid heightened tensions between two countries on a range of issues including the coronavirus pandemic with the US criticising China over the global spread of coronavirus.
China's decision to impose controversial national security law in Hong Kong has also come under sharp criticism from US and its allies.
On Thursday, US, UK, Canada and Australia issued a joint statement expressing deep concern over China's move to impose the legislation in the Hong Kong saying the move would undermine the "one country, two systems" framework and is in "direct conflict" with its international obligations under the principles of legally binding, UN-registered Sino-British joint declaration.
The Mustin passed within 12 nautical miles of Woody Island and Pyramid Rock in the islands, the report said citing a US Navy official.