The guided-missile destroyer USS Russell in the South China Sea. Navy photo

The San Diego-based guided-missile destroyer USS Russell on Wednesday conducted a tense “freedom of navigation” mission in the disputed Spratly Islands area of the South China sea.

The Navy said the mission was conducted because “unlawful and sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea pose a serious threat to the freedom of the sea.”

“The ships of all States –- including their warships –- enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea,” the Navy added in its statement.

China has been fortifying tiny islets throughout the region and claiming the area.

The Russell deployed from Naval Base San Diego with the USS Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group in December.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.