The operation, which infuriated Beijing, was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as China’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the destroyer Mustin traveled close to Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands and carried out maneuvering operations. China has territorial disputes with its neighbours over the area.
Twelve nautical miles is an internationally recognized territorial limit.
The United States has criticized China’s construction of islands and buildup of military facilities in the area, and is concerned they could be used to restrict free nautical movement.
The latest operation, the first since January, occurred just a day after US President Donald Trump lit a slow-burning fuse by signing a presidential memorandum that will target up to $60 billion in Chinese goods with tariffs, following a 30-day consultation period that starts once a list is published.
When asked about the operation, the U.S. military said its activities are carried out under international law and American forces operate in the region on a daily bases. AGENCIES