US Navy conducts first South China Sea freedom of navigation op under Trump
The U.S. Navy ordered one of its destroyers to challenge China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea by sailing within 12 nautical miles of a Chinese artificially built island.
According to Reuters, Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Dewey sailed near a disputed reef in the Spratly Islands over which China is in a territorial dispute with neighboring Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
The report of USS Dewey’s patrol comes after media and analysts started questioning Trump’s South China Sea stance with many pointing to the absence of U.S. Navy patrols in the disputed region.
While U.S. officials repeatedly said the navy would stick to its practice of conducting freedom of navigation operations, USS Dewey’s sail by is the first one since POTUS Donald Trump took office in January.
U.S. destroyers conducted several sail by maneuvers in the South China Sea in 2016 under former president Barrack Obama.
Speaking to reporters last month, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris said the U.S. Navy would likely carry out a freedom of navigation operation soon but did not provide any details.
The operation is likely to provoke China which disagrees with such patrols and claims the operations are used to flex military muscle in the South China Sea.