>> This is the guided missile cruiser USS Antietam, and on Sunday, it and another American war ship sailed near the South China Sea islands claimed by Beijing. Two US officials told Reuters ofa maneuver near the Paracel Island chain, which could anger Beijing just as US president Donald Trump seeks China's continued cooperation with the denuclearization of North Korea.
While this operation was planned months in advance and similar operations have become routine, it comes at a particularly sensitive time. Satellite photos taken on May 12 showed China appeared to have deployed surface to air or antiship missiles on one of the islands. The US military did not comment on Sunday's maneuvers, called Freedom of Navigations operations.
The South China Sea islands are disputed by several nations, including Vietnam and the Philipines, about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes through the South China Sea every year. The Pentagon has long complained that China has been building up its military presence in the region and constructing artificial islands that could be used as strategic operations bases.