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The U.S. sent two warships close by islands claimed by Beijing in the disputed South China Sea on Monday, the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet said, as American negotiators arrived in the Chinese capital for talks aimed at resolving a trade spat between the two powers.

A spokesman for the 7th Fleet told The Japan Times that the guided-missile destroyers USS Spruance and USS Preble had “conducted freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS) in the South China Sea,” with the two vessels sailing “within 12 nautical miles” (22 km) of the Spratly Islands.

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