This does not sound good……

The United States should make clear to China that it does not recognize its sovereignty claims in the South China Sea by sailing warships within 12 nautical miles of artificial islands Beijing has constructed, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Thursday.

Not doing so, he said during a committee hearing on maritime security strategy in the Asia-Pacific, was “a dangerous mistake that grants de-facto recognition of China’s man-made sovereignty claims.”

Pressed as to the last time U.S. Navy ships did enter the waters within 12 miles of the artificial islands, assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs David Shear told McCain that had happened in 2012.

Elsewhere in the South China Sea, he said, the U.S. had conducted “freedom of navigation operations” most recently last April.

(Freedom of navigation operations are those that assert the navy’s rights to sail both within 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zones and 12 nautical mile territorial waters recognized under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.)

Shear stressed that carrying out such operations was just one tool available to the military “in fixing this issue.”

“As we move forward we are going to consider freedom of navigation operations along with a variety of other options to ensure that both the Chinese and the region understands that we can operate, and we do operate, anywhere we can.”

McCain retorted, “The best sign of respecting freedom of the seas is not to de-facto recognize a 12-mile limit, and the best way you can make sure that is not recognized is to sail your ships in international waters – which it clearly is, these are artificial islands – and pass right on by.”

“We haven’t done that since 2012,” he said. “I don’t find that acceptable, Mr. Secretary, and with all the other tools you have in the toolbox, the most visible assertion of freedom of the seas is to peacefully sail inside the 12-mile limit of artificial islands.”