WASHINGTON/BEIJING – The U.S. Navy sent a guided-missile destroyer close to China’s man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea on Tuesday, drawing an angry rebuke from Beijing, which said it warned and followed the American vessel.
The patrol by the USS Lassen — which is deployed to the U.S. Navy’s base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture — was the most significant U.S. challenge yet to 12-nautical-mile territorial limits China asserts around the islands in the Spratly archipelago and could ratchet up tensions in one of the world’s busiest sea lanes.
One U.S. defense official said the USS Lassen sailed within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef. A second defense official said the mission, which lasted a few hours, also included Mischief Reef and would be the first in a series of so-called freedom-of-navigation exercises aimed at testing China’s territorial claims. Continue reading