WASHINGTON – A US Navy destroyer carried out a “freedom of navigation” operation on Friday, coming within 12 nautical miles or about 22 kilometers of an artificial island built by China in the disputed South China Sea, US officials told Reuters.
Friday’s operation, a move likely to anger China. was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the USS Mustin traveled close to Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands and carried out maneuvering operations. China has territorial disputes with its neighbors over the area, including the Philippines.
Neither China’s Foreign nor Defense Ministries immediately responded to a request for comment.
In the past, Beijing has reacted angrily to such moves, saying they are provocative.
The US military has a longstanding position that its operations are carried out throughout the world, including in areas claimed by allies, and they are separate from political considerations.
However, the latest operation, the first since January, comes just a day after US President Donald Trump lit a slow-burning fuse when he signed a presidential memorandum that will target up to $60 billion in Chinese goods with tariffs, but only after a 30-day consultation period that starts once a list is published.