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Official: U.S. Destroyer Will Sail Within 12 Nautical Miles of China’s Manmade Islands

Chinese reclamation in progress on Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea / AP
• October 26, 2015 2:57 pm

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The U.S. Navy will sail a destroyer within 12 nautical miles of China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea in the next 24 hours, the most significant response yet to Beijing’s contested territorial claims in the region, Reuters reports.

The USS Lassen destroyer will navigate near some of China’s manmade outposts in the Spratly Islands, parts of which are also claimed by several U.S. allies in the region, according to a U.S. defense official.

Reuters reports:

The destroyer's patrol would occur near Subi and Mischief reefs in the Spratly archipelago, features that were formerly submerged at high tide before China began a massive dredging project to turn them into islands in 2014.

The ship would likely be accompanied by a U.S. Navy P-8A surveillance plane, and possibly P-3 surveillance plane, which have been conducting regular surveillance missions in the region, according to the official.

The patrol will mark the most serious U.S. challenge yet to the 12-nautical-mile territorial limit China claims around the islands, and follows months of deliberation.

Additional patrols could follow in coming weeks, the official said.

Under international law, only natural landforms are guaranteed a zone of sovereignty extending 12 nautical miles.

U.S. officials say China’s island building and construction of military facilities raises the risk of conflict in waters that serve as a transit point for more than $5 trillion annually in global trade.

Published under: China