The U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet issued a lengthy statement on Thursday describing what it called a “freedom of navigation operation” by the USS Curtis Wilbur, a guided-missile destroyer, made in the South China Sea near the Paracel Islands earlier this week.
The unusually long statement also rejected the statement from the Chinese Southern Theater Command that said the destroyer had been "expelled" from the contested waters.
"The PLA’s statement about this mission is false. USS Curtis Wilbur was not 'expelled' from any nation’s territory. USS Curtis Wilbur conducted this FONOP [freedom of navigation operation] in accordance with international law and then continued on to conduct normal operations in international waters," read the Navy's statement.
"The operation reflects our commitment to uphold freedom of navigation and lawful uses of the sea as a principle. The United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, as USS Curtis Wilbur did here," it continued.
Chinese military officials denounced the U.S. Navy's operations in the South China Sea on Wednesday after the USS Curtis Wilbur conducted a similar operation in the Taiwan Strait, a contested area of the sea near Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory. The U.S. asserts Taiwan's right to self-governance and has shown increased support for Taipei in recent years.
"The U.S. actions sends the wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces, deliberately disrupting the regional situation and endangering peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," China's Eastern Theatre Command said in a statement Wednesday.