June 23 (UPI) -- The USS Nitze sailed into contested waters off the coast of Venezuela Tuesday in what the Navy describes as a "freedom of navigation operation" contesting "an excessive maritime claim" by Venezuela.
According to the Navy, Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer conducted the operation outside of Venezuela's 12-nautical-mile territorial jurisdiction -- an area the Maduro regime claims control over.
"The U.S. Navy routinely conducts freedom of navigation operations around the world to preserve the maritime navigation and access rights guaranteed to all nations and vital to the global mobility of U.S. forces," said the Navy's press release on the operation.
The Navy and Coast Guard are currently operating in the Caribbean as part of a counter-narcotics operation announced earlier this spring.
"The United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, preserving the rights, freedoms and lawful use of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations," said Adm. Craig Faller, Commander of U.S. Southern Command. "These freedoms are the bedrock of ongoing security efforts, and essential to regional peace and stability."