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USS John McCain navigates through South China Sea

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain (DDG 56) fires its MK-45 5-inch gun during a live-fire exercise in 2014. Photo by Ricardo R Guzman/U.S. Navy
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain (DDG 56) fires its MK-45 5-inch gun during a live-fire exercise in 2014. Photo by Ricardo R Guzman/U.S. Navy

Dec. 24 (UPI) -- USS John McCain conducted what the Navy is describing as a "freedom of navigation operation" near the Con Dao Islands in the South China Sea Thursday.

"The ship conducted normal operations within Vietnam's claimed territorial seas to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access and navigational freedoms consistent with international law," said a press statement from the Navy.

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Thursday's freedom of navigation operation is the second in the region this week.

On Tuesday the McCain navigated near the South China Sea's Spratly islands.

The Chinese government later claimed on state television that the Chinese People's Liberation Army expelled the McCain, but the Navy has contested that claim.

The Navy said its operations "are designed in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows," regardless of "excessive maritime claims and regardless of current events."

Specifically, the Navy said Thursday's operation was protected under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, the international framework for maritime law.

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