South China Sea: China sends warship, jets after US destroyer near disputed islands - TomoNews

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SOUTH CHINA SEA — A U.S. Navy warship sailed through the South China Sea this week, prompting yet another angry response from China, which claims almost the entire region as its own.

Disputed islands in the South China Sea are claimed by at least six countries: the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and China. According to a report compiled for the U.S. Congress, China has undertaken large-scale land reclamation in the area since 2013, creating seven artificial islands in two years.

The Wall Street Journal reports that on Tuesday, missile destroyer USS William P. Lawrence traveled within 12 nautical miles of Chinese-occupied Fiery Cross Reef.

Fiery Cross is a 700-acre man-made island with a 10,000-foot military runway, deepwater port, and other military facilities. Given its extensive infrastructure, it is presumed to be the future hub of Chinese military operations in the South China Sea.

The U.S. has said the operation was conducted to exercise freedom of navigation rights in the area, which are reportedly being restricted by excessive claims in the region.

Fiery Cross Reef is claimed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines. Except for the Philippines, the rest of the claimants all require prior notice for transit rights within the 12-mile zone, according to the New York Times.

China responded to the U.S. destroyer’s passage by mobilizing two fighter jets and three warships to shadow the vessel, reports Reuters.

The demonstration comes ahead of a United Nations ruling on whether Beijing has maritime rights around reefs and atolls in the South China Sea.

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