A U.S. warship sailed Sunday near two contested Chinese man-made islands in the South China Sea, the location where Beijing has built up military fortifications despite a pledge not to do so, a U.S. defense official told Fox News.
The “guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG 73) conducted a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea to uphold the rights and freedoms of all states under international law. Decatur sailed within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson Reefs in the Spratly Islands,” the U.S. official, who declined to be identified, said in a statement.
“It’s international waters, folks. It’s international waters, If it was 20 years ago and they had not militarized those features there, it would’ve just been another bomber on its way to Diego Garcia or whatever. ” ~ SOD Mattis
Last week, China announced it would not allow a large U.S. warship to visit Hong Kong next month. On Wednesday, the U.S. Air Force flew nuclear-capable bombers near China in the East China Sea, which Beijing called “provocative” despite flying in international airspace. China also yanked its top admiral from Newport, R.I., last week days before he was set to meet his American counterpart.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur sailed within 12 nautical miles (22 km) of Gaven and Johnson reefs in the Spratly Islands as part of what the U.S. Navy calls “freedom of navigation operations” (FONOPs). The operations are meant to enforce the right of free passage in international waters under international law. The two islets are also claimed by Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Both outposts are among seven in the Spratly chain that China has built up, with some transformed from so-called high-tide elevations entitled to 12 nautical mile territorial seas into garrisons with massive radar installations, scores of buildings and military-grade runways.
Beijing demands that foreign naval vessels seek its permission before transiting Chinese territorial waters.
A U.S. defense official told The Japan Times that the Decatur conducted the freedom of navigation operation under the right of “innocent passage.”
Chris “Badger” Thomas is a Veteran who served our country as an Army Combat Medic.