US Navy Destroyer Conducts Freedom of Navigation Operation Near China-Held Island

China has denied charges that it is militarizing the sea, which also is claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. Worth noting, 12 nautical miles is the territorial boundary that extends beyond the shores of all nations.

The Trump administration last week fined two Chinese citizens and a shipping company for their efforts in helping North Korea's nuclear and missile programs. The White House, in both the Obama and Trump administrations, has seen the militarisation of the South China Sea as a threat to stability in the resource-rich region, where ships from numerous countries have long fished. "All operations are conducted in accordance with global law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever worldwide law allows".

In February, 2017, China had 20 outposts in the Paracels.

Appearing on Friday with new South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Trump said "the era of strategic patience with the North Korean regime has failed".

The USS Stethem, a guided-missile destroyer, on Sunday sailed within 12 miles of Triton Island in the Paracel Island Chain located in the South China Sea, according to a US official.

Duterte has maintained a soft-landing approach on the territorial dispute with China even after the Philippines won in July 2016 an global arbitration case that sought to invalidate Beijing's claim on South China Sea.

Adm. Harry Harris, the top US military commander in the Pacific, said in a speech last week in Australia that Beijing was using "fake islands" to build up a military and strategic advantage. The U.S. does not recognize Beijing's claim of sovereignty over the islands, which it has occupied and on which it has been building fortifications.

"U.S. forces operate in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea", Knight said. "That is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe".

At Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief Reef bases, China has expanded its communications and radar arrays with multiple radar towers on each. Four others boast smaller harbors, with a fifth under construction at Drummond Island.

Showing satellite images, AMTI said Beijing has constructed new missile shelters and communications facilities on Fiery Cross (or Kagitingan, as named by the Philippines), Mischief (Panganiban), and Subi (Zamora) Reefs.

In recent days, China has also showcased its growing naval prowess, on Wednesday launching the first of its newest class of destroyer called the Type 055, which many analysts say resembles the size and capability of the U.S. Navy's Arleigh-Burke guided-missile destroyers, the same class as the Stethem.

Citing Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang as saying, Xinhua reported that China dispatched military vessels and fighter planes in response to warn off the United States vessel.

  • Rogelio Becker