A U.S. Navy warship sailed past one of China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea on Tuesday, in a challenge to Chinese sovereignty claims that drew an angry protest from Beijing, which said the move damaged U.S.-China relations and regional peace.
China’s Foreign Ministry said authorities monitored and warned the USS Lassen as it entered what China claims as a 12-mile (21-kilometer) territorial limit around Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands archipelago, a group of reefs, islets, and atolls where the Philippines has competing claims.
“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,” the ministry said on its website.
“The Chinese side expresses its strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition,” the statement said.
The sail-past fits a U.S. policy of pushing back against China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea. U.S. ally the Philippines welcomed the move as a way of helping maintain “a balance of power.”
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