With the approval of President Obama, the United States sent a naval warship to a man-made island of China in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
In a CNN report, the USS Lassen sailed within 12 nautical miles or 22 kilometers of “Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands on Tuesday morning local time”. This US transit on the disputed waters by China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam was considered by Beijing as a breach of Chinese sovereignty. China has conducted massive dredging in its built up of three artificial islands in the Spratly’s Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross reefs in the last 18 months starting in 2014.
However, the US operation according to US officials is not a breach of the 12-mile zone as claimed by China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi. Further, China advised the US to practice caution in its action not to cause “trouble out of nothing” in this claimed Chinese territory to challenge Beijing’s territorial claims in the contested waters.
China strongly defended its claim on this artificial island advancing an argument that its reclamation and island build-up activity in the South China Sea does not defy any other country’s sovereignty or breach freedom of international navigation by sea or air.
The US move to conduct transit in the South China Sea was authorized by Obama, after a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to the US. This decision of US naval ship deployment was made when Xi Jinping refused to stop China’s island-building in the disputed waters. Obama’s realized the difficulty in getting the cooperation of China , according to Edward Luttwak, a well-known U.S. military strategist, thereby triggering a hardening of the U.S. President’s attitude toward Beijing. Sending American navy ship within the 12 nautical mile limit of China’s artificial island is a mission that marks a major crossroad for the US and China’s relations.