United States warship sails close to South China Sea island occupied by Beijing
- Author: Sonia Alvarado Jul 03, 2017,
Jul 03, 2017, 0:53
The latest U.S. "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.
"Unlike in the Spratlys, where China has created new artificial territory in the last several years, it has effectively controlled the Paracels since 1974", said Mira Rapp-Hooper, a South China Sea expert at the Center for a New American Security. "All operations are conducted in accordance with global law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever worldwide law allows".
"New missile shelters, radar/communications facilities, and other infrastructure are going in on Fiery Cross, Mischief, and Subi Reefs, suggesting that while the region is engaged in peaceful discussion, China remains committed to developing its power projection capabilities", AMTI said.
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 US Navy sent the destroyer USS Stethem within 22 kilometres of Triton Island on Sunday, said the official, who wasn't authorised to speak publicly.
Lt Cmdr Matt Knight, a spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet, would not confirm the operation.
China builds new military facilities on Spratly Islands: report
China has made other advancements on the reefs in the past few months.
Of China's seven man-made islets in the Spratly chain, three boast military-grade airfields - including Mischief Reef, the site of the last FONOP in May - despite a 2015 vow by Chinese President Xi Jinping not to further "militarize" them. China deems Taiwan its own and has never renounced the use of force to bring the self-ruled island under its control. The United States has routinely conducted voyages within this limit around islands in the South China Sea as a message to countries such as China, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Mischief and Subi each have eight shelters, AMTI had said in a previous report.
All three islands boast hangers that can accommodate 24 fighter jets and four larger planes, including surveillance, transport, refueling or bomber aircraft. It has now 12 hardened shelters with retractable roofs that can house missile launchers.
The AMTI report came just as ties between the Philippines and China have warmed up, as well as Beijing's P15-million aid for relief and rehabilitation efforts in conflict-stricken Marawi City and a separate P5-million assistance to families of Filipino troops slain and wounded in the offensive.
On Mischief Reef, ATMI also observed the installation of two smaller radomes, which the report said may be connected to missile systems.
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