BEIJING — The U.S. Navy on Wednesday sailed a destroyer near China-controlled islands within the South China Sea in what Washington mentioned was a patrol aimed toward asserting freedom of navigation via the strategic seaway. The guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold sailed previous the Paracel Islands and continued thereafter with operations within the South China Sea. The operation “upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful makes use of of the ocean,” the seventh Fleet mentioned in a information launch. Such operations are thought of key to the U.S. Navy sustaining its presence within the Indo-Pacific, the place China has grown its presence via a huge ship constructing marketing campaign. Beijing has additionally alarmed the U.S., Australia and New Zealand with the signing of a mutual protection settlement with the Solomon Islands, beneath which it may obtain Chinese language troops in emergencies and presumably set up a everlasting Chinese language navy presence. In response to the Benfold’s passage, China’s Southern Theater Command tracked the vessel’s actions and ordered it to depart the world, Air Drive Col. Tian Junli was quoted as saying on the Protection Ministry’s web site. “Our troops within the navy space are on excessive alert always to safeguard nationwide sovereignty, safety and peace and stability within the South China Sea,” the ministry mentioned. China claims possession over nearly all the strategic waterway, via which passes round $5 trillion in world commerce every year and which holds extremely precious fish shares and undersea mineral assets. The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan additionally lay competing claims to the area.