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US Navy cruiser sails near Scarborough Shoal in South China Sea

USS Preble conducted its 2nd Freedom of Navigation Operation in a single month on Monday

USS Preble

USS Preble (Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The U.S. Navy issued a statement on Monday (May 20) declaring that the USS Preble of the 7th Fleet conducted a Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) in the South China Sea.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile cruiser, the USS Preble, reportedly sailed with 12 nautical miles of the Scarborough Shoal, which is disputed territory in the South China Sea currently contolled by China, but claimed by Taiwan, as well as the Philippines.

Twelve nautical miles is the distance which demarcates a nation's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) extending from its shoreline.

In the official statement issued by a spokesman for the Navy's Seventh Fleet, Commander Clayton Doss said that the FONOP was conducted “in order to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law."

The “excessive maritime claims” refer to Beijing’s policy of expansionism and militarization throughout the South China Sea.

The Scarborough Shoal is a small feature in the South China Sea with a land area of barely three square meters surrounding a lagoon of about 50 square meters. The feature was administered by the Philippines until China seized control of the territory in 2012.

This is the second FONOP in a single month carried out by the USS Preble. On May 6, the Preble, accompanied by the USS Chung Hoon, sailed near the Spratly Island chain.

The navies of India and Singapore are also currently conducting a series of naval exercises in the South China Sea this week, until May 22.