The USS Decatur launches a Standard Missile during a live-fire exercise in August. Image from Navy video

The San Diego-based USS Decatur conducted a freedom-of-navigation mission Sunday near two islands claimed by the Chinese government in the South China Sea.

The news service Reuters quoted a Navy source as saying the Decatur sailed within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson Reefs in the Spratly Islands.

The group consists of more than 100 small islands and reefs off the coasts of the Philippines, Malaysia and southern Vietnam. The islands are close to major shipping lanes.

China has enlarged and fortified a number of small islands in the group, sparking protests by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, which also have claims.

In May the destroyer USS Higgins and cruiser USS Antietam sailed near four disputed islands in the Parcel Islands group.

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