The U.S. Navy has once again challenged China in the South China Sea by sailing a destroyer near a Chinese disputed reef.
The latest sail by is the third time a U.S. warship has exercised the ‘freedom of navigation’, a maritime principle the U.S. Navy calls upon when it sails in the disputed areas.
USS William P. Lawrence concluded this latest freedom of navigation operation close to the Fiery Cross Reef to challenge maritime claims of some claimants in the South China Sea, a U.S. Department of Defense spokesman was reported as saying by Reuters.
Previously, USS Lassen and USS Curtis Wilbur conducted similar operations. USS Curtis Wilbur sailed within 12 miles of Zhongjian Dao, which is part of Chinese-claimed Xisha Islands, while USS Lassen sailed within 12 miles of Zhubi Reef of the Nansha Islands, in the Spratly Islands territory.
This latest U.S Navy operation is in line with an announcement made by the Commander of the United States Pacific Command, Admiral Harry B. Harris, who on February 24, 2016 said that the U.S. Navy would sail, fly and operate wherever international law allowed.
Harris made the announcement following reports that China was militarizing the islands by installing radars and missile launchers. Asked about what could be done to stop China in its intentions and deter militarization, Harris said he believed a stronger naval presence might do the job. He added that the U.S. Navy could consider putting another attack submarine in the region, among other options which would not entail a full-blown carrier group.