Challenging Chinese Claims, U.S. Sends Warship Near Artificial Island Chain
A satellite image from March showed work on an emerging artificial island at Mischief Reef, part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. China has been turning submerged reefs into islands to bolster its territorial claims. Credit Center for Strategic International Studies, via Digital GlobeBy HELENE COOPER
OCT. 26, 2015
WASHINGTON — A United States Navy destroyer entered waters near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea late Monday, Defense Department officials said, directly challenging China’s claims that the artificial island chain is within its territorial borders.
The Lassen, a guided missile destroyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles of the islands, making a long-anticipated entry into the disputed waters, an American military official said. American officials did not inform their Chinese counterparts as they planned the provocative maneuver, saying that to do so would have undercut their message.
“You don’t need to consult with any nation when you are exercising the right of freedom of navigation in international waters,” John Kirby, the State Department spokesman, said at a news conference.
Mr. Kirby said that such a challenge to what he called a questionable sovereignty claim was “one of the reasons you have a navy — to be able to exert influence and defend freedom of navigation on international waters.”
China has been reclaiming land in the South China and East China Seas for several years, and the projects in the vicinity of the Spratlys have come under increasing criticism from the United States and its regional allies, including the Philippines. The United States and several Asian nations dispute the legitimacy of the islands built by China.