Washington – The US Navy plans to send the destroyer USS Lassen within 12 nautical miles of artificial islands built by China in the South China Sea within 24 hours, in the first of a series of challenges to China’s territorial claims, a US defense official said on Monday.
The patrol would occur near Subi and Mischief reefs in the Spratly archipelago, features that were formerly submerged at high tide before China began a massive dredging project to turn them into islands in 2014.
The ship would likely be accompanied by a US Navy P-8A surveillance plane and possibly P-3 surveillance plane, which have been conducting regular surveillance missions in the region, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Additional patrols would follow in coming weeks and could also be conducted around features that Vietnam and the Philippines have built up in the Spratlys, the official added.
“This is something that will be a regular occurrence, not a one-off event,” said the official. “It’s not something that’s unique to China.”
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