US Navy challenges Chinese island-building in South China Sea

The U.S. Navy has vigorously defended the principle of freedom of the seas for 240 years, and it's not about to be deterred by a sabre-rattling China.

The USS Lassen, a guided missile destroyer, sailed to within 12 nautical miles of a Chinese naval base in the South China Sea, provoking praise from members of Congress and an angry response from China.

USA Today:

China has built up reefs in the Spratly Islands to assert claims of sovereignty that would give them control of resources and fishing rights in the South China Sea. U.S. officials maintain they are international waters and open to navigation. Moreover, even if the islands were Chinese territory, the U.S. Navy could pass within 12 miles under the rule of "innocent passage," which allows ships to sail if they are not conducting military maneuvers.

The United States does not take a position on the competing claims among countries asserting ownership of the islands, the official said.

A senior member of the House Armed Services Committee praised the Navy's deployment of the Lassen.

"The passage of U.S. vessels within 12 nautical miles of China's man-made features in the South China Sea is a necessary and overdue response to China's destabilizing behavior in the region," Randy Forbes, chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee, said in a statement. "International law is clear that China has no legitimate claim to sovereignty over these waters, and it is high time that this administration reaffirmed America's enduring commitment to freedom of navigation and the maintenance of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region."

“The actions of the U.S. warship have threatened China’s sovereignty and security interests, jeopardized the safety of personnel and facilities on the reefs, and damaged regional peace and stability,” China’s Foreign Ministry said on its website.

“The Chinese side expresses its strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition,” the statement added.

The Chinese seem to think that because the name of the body of water is the "South China Sea," they have some kind of special power not granted by international law over the waters surrounding their base.  This is nonsense.  The only "damage" to the peace has been the provocative actions of the Chinese navy in constructing this base in the first place. 

The Senate didn't ratify the U.N. Law of the Sea Treaty largely because it refused to recognize the absolute freedom of the seas we have fought wars to preserve.  China just got a little history lesson from the USS Lassen and the U.S. Navy that it would do well to take to heart.

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