US Navy destroyer conducts operation in South China Sea

The Defense Department says a U.S. Navy warship has conducted a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea, where China and five other countries have competing territorial claims.

A department spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Gary Ross, said the destroyer ship USS Decatur conducted the transit operation Friday near the Paracel Islands.

He said it was conducted "in a routine, lawful manner without ship escorts and without incident."

The U.S. Navy has periodically conducted such freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.

Ross said the operation "demonstrated that coastal states may not unlawfully restrict the navigation rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea" that all states are entitled to exercise under international law.

Vietnam, China and Taiwan all claim the Paracel islands, which are occupied by China.