Just checking out the situation….
China’s foreign minister warned the U.S. Tuesday not to “stir up troubles,” in response to reports that a U.S. Navy destroyer was to sail within 12 nautical miles of artificial islands Beijing has constructed in the South China Sea.
The plan for the USS Lassen, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, to sail within 12 miles of the manmade islands came six weeks after U.S. lawmakers urged a senior Department of Defense official to do just that, to make it clear to China that the U.S. does not recognize its sovereignty claims in the South China Sea.
China’s foreign ministry quoted Foreign Minister Wang Yi as saying China was looking into the reports. “If it is true, we urge the U.S. side to think twice, not to take rash moves and stir up troubles,” Wang said.
Chinese state media warned recently that it would be a “grave mistake” for U.S. Navy ships to sail near the islands, and said China would respond “appropriately and decisively” to any such act.
Chinese land reclamation projects in the area since last year have expanded previously submerged reefs and outcrops in the Spratly chain into sizeable artificial islands. Earlier this year satellite imagery showed what appeared to be an airstrip capable of accommodating military aircraft, fueling concerns about China’s intentions. Beijing has denied any plan to militarize the reclaimed islands.
U.S. defense officials speaking on background told media outlets the USS Lassen, which is forward deployed at Yokosuka, Japan, would patrol near the Subi and Mischief reefs, and that a U.S. Navy surveillance plane would likely accompany it. A defense official subsequently told the Associated Press that the patrol, which had been approved by the White House, had been completed without incident.
China is engaged in disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan over resource-rich areas of the South China Sea, an area that includes some of the world’s most important shipping trade corridors.
The U.S. says it takes no sides in the various disputes, but that freedom of navigation must be upheld. It routinely called on all claimants to take steps to reduce tensions.