U.S. warship sails close to Chinese artificial island in South China Sea

 
The United States sent a warship very close to one of China's artificial islands in the South China Sea on Tuesday, a potential challenge to Beijing's territorial claims in the contested waters.

A U.S. defense official told CNN that the destroyer USS Lassen "conducted a transit" within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands on Tuesday morning local time.

The operation put the ship within an area that would be considered Chinese sovereign territory if the U.S. recognized the man-made islands as being Chinese territory, the official added.
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The mission, which had the approval of President Barack Obama, has now concluded, the official said.

The United States had not breached the 12-mile limit since China began massive dredging operations to turn three reefs into artificial islands in 2014.

In little more than 18 months, China has reclaimed more than 2000 acres at three main locations in the Spratly Islands -- Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross reefs.

The South China Sea is the subject of numerous rival and often messy territorial claims, with China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam disputing sovereignty of several island chains and nearby waters.

On Tuesday morning before it was confirmed that the U.S. warship had breached the 12-mile zone, Wang Yi, China's foreign minister, said:

"We advise the U.S. side to think twice before action, not to conduct any rash action, and not to create trouble out of nothing."

China has repeatedly said its activity in the South China Sea does not target any other country or affect freedom of navigation by sea or air.

In May, a U.S. surveillance plane carrying a CNN crew swooped over the Spratly Islands, triggering eight warnings from the Chinese navy to back off.


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Source: CNN

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