The guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem is conducting operations in the South China Sea, the US Navy has announced amid tensions between Washington and Beijing over China’s controversial claims to the disputed waterway. The Arleigh Burke-class, guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) is “conducting routine operations” in the South China Sea, according to a Friday press release from the US Navy.

The statement went on to note that the guided-missile destroyer had been refueled at sea by Her Majesty’s New Zealand Ship (HMNZS) Endeavour (A 11). The refueling allowed the vessel to remain mission ready, according to Command Senior Chief William Palmer IV. “Conducting these types of operations with our allies builds proficiency and sustains our ability to maintain a persistent presence throughout the 7th Fleet area of operations,” Palmer said. READ MORE