US sails warship past contested islands in South China Sea, ahead of G20 summit

Washington (CNN)The US Navy sailed the guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville near contested islands in the South China Sea Monday, less than a week before US and Chinese leaders are due to meet for a high-stakes summit at the G20 in Argentina, two US officials told CNN.

The "USS Chancellorsville sailed near the Paracel islands to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law," US Navy Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, a spokesman for US Pacific Fleet, told CNN in a statement.
The US warship conducted what is referred to as a "Freedom of Navigation Operation" in the vicinity of the Paracel Islands to challenge claims made by China, Christensen added.
    A US official said that the Chancellorsville was shadowed by a Chinese vessel during the operation but that all interactions were deemed safe and professional.
    US officials say the operations are meant to enforce the right of free passage in international waters.
    "US Forces operate in the Indo-Pacific region on a daily basis, including the South China Sea. All operations are designed in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows," Christensen said.
    The exercise comes just days before US President Donald Trump is due to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 in Argentina, in what some are hoping could lead to a deal defusing US-China trade tensions.