REUTERS REPORT – DEVELOPING STORY
The Pentagon is considering sending U.S. military aircraft and ships to assert freedom of navigation around rapidly growing Chinese-made artificial islands in the disputed SouthChina Sea, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter requested options that include sending aircraft and ships within 12 nautical miles (22 km) of reefs that China has been building up in the Spratly island chain, the official said.
Such a move would directly challenge Chinese efforts to expand its influence in the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.
Carter’s request was first reported earlier on Tuesday by the Wall Street Journal, which said one option was to fly Navy surveillance aircraft over the islands.
It quoted U.S. officials as saying there was now growing momentum within the Pentagon and the White House for taking concrete steps in order to send Beijing a signal that the recent build up in the Spratlys had gone too far and needed to stop.
The Pentagon and White House did not immediately comment but the South China Sea is likely to be a topic of discussion when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visits China this weekend.
Part of Kerry’s trip will focus on preparations for the annual U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue scheduled to be held in Washington in late June.
Asked about the Pentagon plan, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that Beijing was “extremely concerned” and demanded that the U.S. issued a clarification of the remarks.
“Freedom of navigation certainly does not mean that foreign military ships and aircraft can enter another country’s territorial waters or airspace at will,” said ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a regular briefing.
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FOX NEWS REPORTS HERE:
WASHINGTON – China has reportedly warned the U.S. against sending U.S. Navy aircraft or ships to the South China Sea to contest territorial claims made by Beijing in disputed waters.
The Wall Street Journal had reported late Tuesday that the Pentagon was considering flying surveillance aircraft and sending ships to within 12 nautical miles of coral reefs in the disputed Spratly Islands that have been built up and claimed by the Chinese. The U.S. has said it does not recognize the islands as Chinese territory.
Military officials told the Journal that no final decision had been made. However, on Wednesday, China’s Foreign Ministry responded in unusually strong terms.
“Do you think we would support that move? We are severely concerned about relevant remarks made by the American side. We believe the American side needs to make clarification on that,” said ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, according to the paper.
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Red China Warns U.S.