A defense official says a U.S. Navy ship has sailed near a disputed island in the South China Sea to exercise the U.S.'s freedom to navigate in international waters.

The USS Curtis Wilbur destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island, in the Paracels chain, Saturday without notifying the three claimants to the surrounding seas beforehand, according to Defense Department spokesman Mark Wright in Washington.

China, Taiwan and Vietnam have claims in the Paracels and require prior notice from transiting ships.

Wright reiterated that while insisting on freedom of navigation, the United States took no position on the competing territorial claims to natural islands in the South China Sea.

In October, another U.S. warship sailed in the disputed Spratly Islands near Subi Reef, where China has built an island.