United States destroyer sails close to disputed island in South China Sea

China steps closer to military dominance in South China Sea with missile shelters, hangars

The latest USA "freedom of navigation" exercise comes as Beijing continues muscular efforts to cement its claim to almost all of the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by Taiwan and Southeast Asian nations including the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.

The 12-mile line is the internationally recognized distance that separates the shores of a sovereign nation from global waters.

"While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out".

The United States previously conducted a FONOP near Triton Island in January 2016, when USS Curtis Wilbur challenged China's prior notification requirements by conducting an innocent passage around the feature.

"The United States will fly, sail and operate wherever global law allows", he told USA Today.

China has continued to militarize its outposts there - despite a pledge to the contrary - as it seeks to reinforce effective control of much of the waterway, through which $5 trillion in trade passes each year.

"We need to reiterate the fact that the President has said his approach to the situation, to regional socio-geopolitics, has always been to come into a mutual understanding...and dialogue in order to resolve cases like these", Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters in Davao City.

The first was on May 25, when the USS Dewey, a guided- missile destroyer, sailed less than 12 nautical miles from Mischief Reef - part of the disputed Spratly Islands south of the Paracel Islands.


The U.S. Navy's FON program, however, is a legal signaling tool and not created to either deter or coerce claimants - in the South China Sea and elsewhere.

The United States has criticised China's build-up of military facilities on the artificial islands and is concerned they could be used to restrict free movement through the South China Sea, an important trade route.

Tokyo does not have any claims in the waters, but is embroiled in a separate dispute with Beijing in the East China Sea over the Senkaku Islands, which are known as the Diaoyus in China.

The Paracels and the Spratlys are two island chains in the South China Sea claimed in whole or in part by a number of countries.

So by sailing within that distance of Triton, the Stethem dismissed China's claim to both the island and the waters around it.

Mischief and Subi each have eight shelters, AMTI had said in a previous report. Four others boast smaller harbors, with a fifth under construction at Drummond Island.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs termed the operation "trespassing" and said Beijing had dispatched military vessels and planes in response.

Two more domes are under construction at Mischief Reef, it said.

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