May 4 (UPI) -- The Pentagon turned down a recent request from the U.S. military to sail near China's reclaimed islands in the South China Sea, a senior defense official told CNN Wednesday.
The diminished presence of U.S. vessels in waters claimed by China is a sign the United States and China reached a compromise on a dispute that worsened relations in 2016, an agreement that some analysts are describing as a U.S. concession to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
"I think if you're sitting in Beijing you have to be very pleased that Donald Trump is in the White House because he is ceding to China a great deal in terms of clout and advantage," said Mike Chinoy, a non-resident senior fellow at the University of Southern California's U.S.-China Institute.
Trump and Xi met in April for their first summit, but the meeting did not produce a joint statement or a joint press conference, and neither side provided full details of the discussions.
The Trump administration has also refrained from labeling China a currency manipulator and the president has recognized Beijing's "one China" policy, while to some degree gaining China's trust and cooperation on North Korea.
A less active U.S. approach to issues surrounding the South China Sea may be having an impact on how Southeast Asian claimants are dealing with China's militarization.
"We cannot stop China from doing its thing. Even the Americans were not able to stop them," Duterte told reporters.
The Pentagon has said the U.S. military would continue freedom of navigation operations, but exercises will be publicized annually and "not sooner," according to CNN.