A file photo of guided-missile detroyer USS Lassen.A file photo of guided-missile detroyer USS Lassen.
ONBOARD THE USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT, South China Sea: As soon as the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen breached 12-nautical-mile territorial limits around one of China’s man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea last week, a Chinese warship shadowing its movements began demanding answers.
“‘Hey, you are in Chinese waters. What is your intention?’,” it asked, as recounted to reporters on Thursday by Commander Robert Francis, commanding officer of the Lassen.
His crew replied that they were operating in accordance with international law, and intended to transit past the island, carrying out what US officials have called a freedom-of-navigation exercise designed to challenge China’s claims to the strategic waterway.