Beijing/Washington: The US Navy sent a guided-missile destroyer on Tuesday within 12 nautical miles of two artificial islands built by China in the South China Sea, in a challenge to Beijing’s territorial claims in the area, Reuters has reported.
The USS Lassen was nearing Subi and Mischief reefs in the Spratly archipelago, which have been built upon to create small islands, the report said, citing an unnamed US defence official. The Pentagon could not confirm the report when contacted by Fairfax Media on Monday evening in Washington, DC, though the US has made clear its intention to conduct so-called freedom of navigation exercises in the region.
Islands and reefs in the region are subject to competing claims by China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. America takes no position on the various claims, but insists that under international law no nation can make territorial claims preventing free international navigation over the sea surrounding the islands.