The U.S. Navy sent a destroyer within 12 miles of one of China’s man-made islands in a contested area of the South China Sea on Tuesday, a U.S. defense official told CNN. The operation has since concluded, the official said.
The U.S. Navy plans to send a destroyer within 12 miles of China’s man-made islands in the South China Sea within the next 24 hours, a U.S. defense official confirmed to CNN.
The official said the mission now has the approval of President Barack Obama.
News of the ship’s plan was first reported by Reuters.
The ship could make the pass as soon as Monday night, barring any unforeseen circumstances, a U.S. military source told CNN. There will be air cover as well as reconnaissance in the air, flying in international airspace, the source said.
The aircraft will watch the ship and be there, if needed, to record and deal with any problems. The Chinese have not been informed, the source said, adding that no trouble is expected.
“This idea of what we call freedom of navigation operations is routine. As a former naval officer I can tell you I did it many, many times myself,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby on Monday. “It’s one of the reasons you have a Navy. To be able to exert influence and defend freedom of navigation on international waters.”
Kirby said one country doesn’t need to consult with another “when you are exercising the right of freedom of navigation in international waters.”
“The whole point of freedom of navigation in international waters is that it’s international waters and you don’t need to consult with anybody to do that. That’s the idea,” he said.
But Chinese Embassy spokesperson Zhu Haiquan said, “Freedom of navigation and overflight should not be used as excuse to flex muscle and undermine other countries’ sovereignty and security.”
“We urge the United States to refrain from saying or doing anything provocative and act responsibly in maintaining regional peace and stability,” Haiquan said in a statement Monday night.