US steps up freedom of navigation patrols in South China Sea to counter Beijing’s ambitions


The United States has stepped up its freedom of navigation operations in the disputed South China Sea as it challenges Beijing’s efforts to strengthen its maritime claims in the region.

American officials have signalled Washington will boost measures to counter China’s expansion in the area, and include allies in future missions, but observers say Beijing is unlikely to be deterred.

The US has already conducted two freedom of navigation operations in the disputed waters this year. In January, the USS McCampbell sailed near the Paracel Islands, and on February 11, the USS Spruance and the USS Preble sailed near Mischief Reef in the Spratlys – both actions triggering condemnation from Beijing.

Washington reportedly carried out five such operations last year and four in 2017, according to a defence department report. That compared to four in both 2016 and 2015.