Washington: The United States Navy has sent a destroyer near a contested island in the South China Sea where Beijing has fortified its military installations to stake its claims on the region, CNN reported.

US Navy's announcement comes amid the Chinese military drills near Taiwan which entered its third day. China launched the military drills in response to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen's visit to Washington and her meeting with US House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy.

On Monday, the US Navy's 7th Fleet in a statement said the guided-missile destroyer USS Milius sailed within 12 nautical miles, the internationally recognized limit of a nation's territorial waters of Mischief Reef in the Spratly islands known as the Nansha Islands in China.

Mischief Reef, which lies in the Philippines Exclusive Economic Zone is claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. However, China has asserted its claims on the island by building and placing military infrastructure on it, as per the CNN report.

In a statement, the US 7th Fleet said, "On April 10, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69) asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the South China Sea near the Spratly Islands, consistent with international law."

It further said, "At the conclusion of the operation, USS Milius exited the excessive claim area and continued operations in the South China Sea. This freedom of navigation operation ("FONOP") upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea. USS Milius demonstrated that Mischief Reef, a low-tide elevation in it its natural state, is not entitled to a territorial sea under international law."

The US engaged in "normal operations" within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, according to the statement. The US 7th Fleet said, "Under customary international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention, features like Mischief Reef that are submerged at high tide in their naturally formed state are not entitled to a territorial sea. The land reclamation efforts, installations, and structures built on Mischief Reef do not change this characterization under international law."

"By engaging in normal operations within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, the United States demonstrated that vessels can lawfully exercise high-seas freedoms in those areas," the US 7th Fleet said.

As per the news report, China claims almost all of the South China Sea as part of its territorial waters, including distant islands. A spokesperson for China's People's Liberation Army's Southern Theater Command said the US destroyer "illegally intruded" into Chinese waters near Mischief Reef.

In a statement, Chinese Air Force Senior Colonel Tian Junli said, "China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and their nearby waters," according to CNN.

US warships regularly carry out such freedom of navigation operations (FONOP) in the South China Sea, as per the news report. The sailing of the US Navy destroyer on Monday was the second in three weeks by the Milius. Earlier on March 23, the USS Milius passed near the Paracel Islands, known as the Xisha Islands in China in the South China Sea.