Will they or won’t they? That’s been the question on everyone’s mind about whether the United States would sail ships within 12 miles of China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea. The White House has sent mixed signals for months. Now, Reuters reports, they’ve made a decision:
The U.S. Navy plans to send the USS Lassen destroyer within 12 nautical miles of artificial islands built by China in the South China Sea within 24 hours, the first of more regular challenges to China’s territorial claims, a U.S. defense official said on Monday.
The destroyer’s patrol would occur near Subi and Mischief reefs in the Spratly archipelago, features that were formerly submerged at high tide before China began a massive dredging project to turn them into islands in 2014.
The ship would likely be accompanied by a U.S. Navy P-8A surveillance plane, and possibly P-3 surveillance plane, which have been conducting regular surveillance missions in the region, according to the official.
The patrol will mark the most serious U.S. challenge yet to the 12-nautical-mile territorial limit China claims around the islands, and follows months of deliberation.
We haven’t heard this level of certainty before, but we’ve seen so much backtracking it’s almost impossible to know what’s actually going to happen. Don’t blame us when we say we’ll only believe it when we see it.