In the first unofficial challenge to Beijing over China’s domination of disputed waters in the South China Sea since President Trump took office, a US navy warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea according to the WSJ. The navy vessel, the USS Dewey, traveled close to the Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals over which China has territorial disputes with its neighbors.
The “freedom of navigation” operation which in the past has infuriated Beijing, comes as Trump is seeking Beijing’s cooperation to rein in ally North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. Territorial waters are generally defined by U.N. convention as extending at most 12 nautical miles from a state’s coastline. China’s claims to the South China Sea, which sees about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade pass every year, are challenged by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, as well as Taiwan.
The U.S. patrol, the first of its kind since October, marks the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters. One official said it was the first operation near a land feature which was included in a ruling last year against China by an international arbitration court in The Hague. The court invalidated China’s claim to sovereignty over large swathes of the South China Sea.
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