News Desk | May 27,2018 | 2:31 pm
The islands are among a string of islets, reefs and shoals over which China has territorial disputes with its neighboring countries.
The move is likely to anger Beijing as President Donald Trump is trying to maintain its continued cooperation on North Korea.
The military vessels conducted maneuvering operations near Tree, Lincoln, Triton and Woody islands in the Paracels, according to one of the officials.
China has repeatedly warned the United States against sending warships to patrol the South China Sea. Washington claims such operations are meant to protect “freedom of navigation” in the sea, a gateway for trillions of dollars in maritime trade each year.
China’s island-building in the South China Sea has also drawn criticism from the US, which accuses Beijing of undertaking a land reclamation program to build artificial islands, which could be used as military bases.
However, Beijing, which claims almost the entire South China Sea, has denied the allegations and says any military activities on the islands have been for self-defense purposes.
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