After carrying out no fewer than four “Freedom of Navigation” operations last year and one in January, The US sent a Navy Destroyer to sail within 12 nautical miles of the Spratly Islands – a move that China condemned as a “severe provocation” just as the two countries are on the verge of an all-out trade war.
The operation was the US’s latest attempt to push back against an expanding Chinese military presence in the Pacific that at least one US military leader has characterized as an ominous national security threat that could lead to all-out war. Admiral Harry Harris said last month that the US should be “prepared for war” with China due to its increasingly aggressive posture, which he said was a veiled attempt by Beijing to undermine the national world order.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the US destroyer Mustin traveled close to Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands and “carried out maneuvering operations.” The Spratly Islands, located in the South China Sea, are the epicenter of a territorial dispute between China and several of its neighbors, per Reuters. Twelve nautical miles is the internationally recognized territorial limit.