|THE USS LASSEN. The guided missile warship is patrolling the disputed areas in West Philippine Sea and South China Sea as US President Barack Obama gets ready to visit the region next month.|
MOSCOW — The Pentagon has confirmed its plans to patrol the South China Sea amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing.
The US Navy will take the aggressive action of sailing within 12 nautical miles of Chinese territory.
Last month, a number of Pentagon officials floated the idea of sending naval ships into the South China Sea.
To protest Beijing’s construction of artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago, the US Navy said it would sail within the 12-mile territorial limit of those features.
“The United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a news conference last month.
On Monday, October 26, a US defense official confirmed to Reuters that such a plan will, in fact, take place – and soon.
Within the next 24 hours, the USS Lassen destroyer will be sent to patrol Chinese territorial waters near the islands and could also patrol artificial islands built by other nations.
“This is something that will be a regular occurrence, not a one-off event,” the official said. “It’s not something that’s unique to China.”
According to the official, the ship will likely be accompanied by a P-8A, the Pentagon’s most advanced spy plane, which has already been operating in the region to monitor Beijing’s construction progress.
China has repeatedly warned the US about aggressive action. Earlier this month, the Foreign Ministry urged “related parties not to take any provocative actions, and genuinely take a responsible stance on regional peace and stability.”
“We will never allow any country to violate China’s territorial waters and airspace in the Spratly Islands, in the name of protecting freedom of navigation and overflight, ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said during a news briefing.
With nearly USD5 trillion in trade passing through its waters annually, the South China Sea is a highly contested region.
While China claims most of the sea, there are overlapping claims from Vietnam, Brunei, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Taiwan.
While the United States lays no claim in the region, it has criticized China’s land reclamation projects as a breach of international law.
“There are billions of dollars of commerce that float through that region of the world,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters. “Ensuring the free flow of commerce…is critical to the global economy.”
Beijing maintains that it has every right to build within its own territory, and that the islands will be used primarily for humanitarian purposes.
This isn’t the first time the US has sought to influence the region through naval patrols.
Both Vietnam and the Philippines have also built islands atop reefs in the Spratly archipelago in the past, and these too resulted in aggressive patrols by the US Navy. (PNA/Sputnik)
BEIJING — The United States should exercise caution in its foray into the South China Sea defined by Beijing as sovereign waters, the Chinese Foreign Ministry cited Foreign Minister Wang Yi as saying.
US media outlets cited an unnamed Pentagon official as saying that guided missile destroyer USS Lassen was patrolling within 12 nautical miles of the Spratly Islands in an operation said to be completed “within a few hours.”
Beijing claims sovereignty over the seven artificial islands it had built over the past year and the 12-nautical-mile radius around them.
“We are verifying [the reports], if true, we advise the US to think and not act rashly or make much ado about nothing,” the ministry cited Wang as saying.
Earlier in October, the US Navy was reportedly set to send a surface ship inside the territorial boundary China has drawn around the Spratly Islands within days, pending White House approval. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said at the time the move “should not provoke” Beijing.
Countries located in and around the areas of the South China Sea, including the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam, have expressed competing claims to the disputed Spratly Islands.
The United States has warned it does not recognize the sovereignty of the Chinese claims, and has repeatedly raised concerns over Beijing’s activities in the region. (PNA/Sputnik)