US Destroyers Sail in China Sea as Trade Talks on Verge of Collapse

The South China Sea is one of a growing number of contentious issues in US-China relations, which have also been complicated by seemingly crumbling trade talks, US sanctions, and Taiwan’s status.

Two US guided-missile destroyers Preble and Chung Hoon sailed near Gaven and Johnson Reefs in the Spratly Islands claimed by China in the South China Sea on Monday, Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, told Reuters.

The news outlet cited Doss as saying that the “innocent passage” within 12 nautical miles of the island was made “to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law”.

China has yet to comment on the ships’ reported passage, as it regularly warns the US against sending vessels and military aircraft close to the islands and reefs claimed by Beijing, and demands that Washington “stop actions that undermine China’s sovereignty and security interests”.

The development comes amid reports by the South China Morning Post that Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will proceed with his trip to the United States this week for trade talks but is expected to shorten his Washington visit. Liu is reportedly set to leave Beijing on Thursday — three days later than scheduled — and leave DC a day later.

The news followed media speculation that he might call off this week’s trade talks in light of comments by President Donald Trump that he would increase tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent starting Friday, as well as slap other Chinese products worth $325 billion with 25 percent tariffs.

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