Advertisement

U.S. destroyer sails near disputed Chinese islands

By Shawn Price
A U.S. Navy destroyer sailed Tuesday near the disputed artificial islands being created by the Chinese in the South China Sea. The move is designed to test and enforce United Nations international maritime law. China has had disputes with virtually every nation in the region over ownership of various islands. (UPI Photo/Konstandinos Goumenidis/US Navy/File). | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/60d16030ce7093f2497bb99914990e48/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
A U.S. Navy destroyer sailed Tuesday near the disputed artificial islands being created by the Chinese in the South China Sea. The move is designed to test and enforce United Nations international maritime law. China has had disputes with virtually every nation in the region over ownership of various islands. (UPI Photo/Konstandinos Goumenidis/US Navy/File). | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- A U.S. Navy destroyer sailed Tuesday through the highly disputed South China Seas to uphold international law, officials said.

The USS Lassen, a guided missile destroyer, traveled within 12 nautical miles of Subi reef in an area the Chinese have claimed is their territory, a Defense Department official said. The Chinese have built artificial islands on the reef they say is for scientific purposes, but satellite images imply they might be military bases.

Advertisement

The Lassen passed through the area without incident, despite increasing tensions with China over the building of the islands. China has had disputes with virtually every nation in the region over ownership of various islands. The United States will not take sides in any of those disputes, the official said.

The U.S. Navy's visit is a direct challenge to China's growing influence in the region and a follow through on President Barack Obama's assertion to Chinese President Xi Jinping last month that the United States will work to maintain "unimpeded commerce" in the area.

RELATED Ashton Carter: Beijing should end activities in South China Sea

China's Foreign Ministry said earlier this month it would "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."

Advertisement

China has contended it is exercising its ancient rights to the reef as national territory. The United States said the ship was there to uphold international law and protect safe passage in a busy shipping lane.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea states the typical 12-nautical-mile boundary nations enjoy off their coastlines cannot be placed around artificial islands or structures, only a 500 meter safety zone.

RELATED China responds to Ashton Carter remarks on South China Sea

Even within the 12 nautical miles, a military ship can pass through under the rule of "innocent passage," allowing ships to sail as long as they are not conducting military maneuvers.

The passage of the Lassen is the first visit by a U.S. warship since construction on the artificial islands began in 2013.

RELATED U.S. Pacific Fleet commander issues warning on South China Sea

Latest Headlines

Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us

Advertisement