US destroyer challenges China's claims in South China Sea

US Navy destroyer USS Stethem transits waters east of the Korean Peninsula on March 22, 2017. (Reuters file photo)

WASHINGTON -- A US Navy destroyer carried out a "freedom of navigation operation" on Thursday, coming within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea, US officials told Reuters.

The operation came as President Donald Trump's administration seeks Chinese cooperation in dealing with North Korea's missile and nuclear programs and could complicate efforts to secure a common stance.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the USS John S. McCain travelled close to Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals. China has territorial disputes with its neighbours over the area.

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