The US Navy announced that it had sailed one of its destroyers near the Chinese administered Paracel Islands in the South China Sea on September 13, asserting international freedom of navigation rights in the disputed waters. The guided-missile destroyer, USS Wayne E Meyer sailed through the area of the Paracels east of Vietnam and south of China's Hainan Island without requesting prior permission from China, Vietnam or Taiwan, which also claim the ownership of the island. This move by the US could escalate tensions between the US and China, who are already on a neck to neck trade war and China pushing to expand its military reach globally.
According to the US Navy spokesperson Reann Mommsen, the guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer challenged the restrictions imposed on a free passage by China, Vietnam and Taiwan also contested China's claim to straight baselines enclosing the Paracel Islands. He also mentioned with the baselines, China has attempted to claim more internal waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone than it is entitled under international law. China has claimed its area almost all of the South China Sea and has established many military outposts in the archipelago resulting in a dispute with other claimants Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan. Recently, the US military has escalated its "freedom of navigation operations" or FONOPS in the region annoying Beijing but not sparking any direct confrontation so far.
As of now, China claims the entire territory which it named the Xisha Islands and has effectively created a boundary line circumnavigating the whole of Paracels Islands. The US Navy spokesperson said according to the FONOPS law the US can operate, sail, and fly wherever the international law allows despite the location of excessive maritime claims and regardless of current occurring. While Beijing has protested the move against US freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea, the US and Southeast Asian nations are concerned about China's growing military in the region.