The U.S. destroyer Lassen sailed 12 nautical miles from China's claimed reefs by the man-made land masses in the Spratly Islands, Oct. 26. The Lassen’s trip was a freedom-of-navigation patrol intended to challenge Chinese claim to the islands, which bolster the nation’s dominance in the South China Sea.
The move, meant as a show of force, took place in the area where China is suspected of building runways that can accommodate military aircraft. As a result, China has condemned U.S. activity in the area.
According to a statement from Rep. Randy Forbes, a Republican from Virginia, “The passage of U.S. vessels within 12 nautical miles of China's man-made features in the South China Sea is a necessary and overdue response to China's destabilizing behavior in the region.”
“Make no mistake: The United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as we do around the world, and the South China Sea is not and will not be an exception,” U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a speech in Boston on Oct. 13, reports USA Today.