The United States Navy is considering to dispatch warships close to the disputed artificial islands in the South China Sea, to signal it does not recognize Chinese territorial claims on the area, a U.S. defense official said on Thursday.
According to Financial Times Newspaper a senior US official said that U.S. warships would sail within the 12-nautical-mile zones that China claims as territory around the artificial islands it has built in the Spratly chain, within the next two weeks.
According to officials who briefed the Navy Times and Financial Times, the Navy mission is designed to underline the fact that the US does not accept Chinese ownership of the waters, and instead considers them open to everyone.
The United States has seven combat ships in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to serve as a reinforcement of the U.S. ship’s right to be there, said Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins, Stars and Stripes reported.
The Chinese government claims most of the South China Sea, near the Spratly islands where the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims. International maritime law states that a nation can claim water extending 12 nautical miles from its coasts as sovereign territory. They have sole rights to the resources there and can police the waters as they see fit.
Philippine military officials have said that China has repeatedly warned Philippine military aircraft away from the artificial islands in the Spratlys.