from the sabre-rattling dept.
A US Navy warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea, the first such challenge to Beijing in the strategic waterway since US President Donald Trump took office.
The US patrol, the first of its kind since October, marked the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing's efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters.
US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Wednesday the USS Dewey traveled close to Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands - among a string of islets, reefs and shoals over which China has territorial disputes with its neighbours.
The move angered Beijing, which reiterated its position that China has "indisputable sovereignty" over the Spratly Islands and their surrounding waters.
[...] One US official said it was the first operation near a land feature that was included in a ruling last year against China by an international arbitration court in The Hague. The court invalidated China's claim to sovereignty over large swathes of the South China Sea.
The US has criticised China's construction of man-made islands and build-up of military facilities in the sea and expressed concern they could be used to restrict free movement.
[...] US-based South China Sea analyst Greg Poling, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said [...] the key question was whether the US warship had engaged in a real challenge to the Chinese claims by turning on radar or launching a helicopter or boat - actions not permitted in a territorial sea under international law.
Otherwise, critics say, the operation would have resembled what is known as "innocent passage" and could have reinforced rather than challenged China's claim to a territorial limit around the reef.
War brewing with North Korea, picking fights with China. Good times.