Once again Pentagon ups South China Sea freedom of navigation as Navy...

Once again Pentagon ups South China Sea freedom of navigation as Navy reveals close call

In a file photo, Ens. Carmen Houk, left, and Gunner's Mate 1st Class Steven Carey, right, load ammunition into a 50.-caliber machine gun onboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin during a live-fire exercise (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Devon Dow)

WASHINGTON — The Navy once again challenged Chinese claims in the South China Sea Thursday, sailing the guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin near the Paracel Islands, one of the key cornerstones of China’s increased grasp on the key international waterway.

The Mustin passed within 12 nautical miles of Woody Island and Pyramid Rock in the islands. China maintains an airfield on Woody Island and has landed bombers there in the past.

There were two similar sailings by the Navy in April, past the Paracel and Spratly islands, as well as another such sailing near the Paracels in March.

The Pentagon also said Thursday said that a Chinese vessel on April 14 conducted “unsafe and unprofessional maneuvers” near the Mustin “which was conducting normal operations in international waters” at the time of the incident, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn said.

However, the Pentagon has refused to release a video of that incident as they have with recent close calls with Russian planes and ships.

Thursday’s freedome of navigation sailing came two days after two Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers flew over the South China Sea, the first such flyover since April 29.

The Pentagon actions come as China announced its two aircraft carriers will be deployed in August near Taiwanese waters for military exercises, according to news reports.

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