A US warship sailing very close to the Panganiban (Mischief) Reef in Spratly’s was meant to defy China’s claim to the disputed territory earlier invalidated by the international arbitration court in The Hague, Netherlands, a Washington official said.
The US Naval warship USS Dewey has reportedly sailed within 12 nautical miles of the contested island which is under China’s control early this month.
It is the first of the so-called “freedom of navigation operations” (FONOPS) conducted by the US since President Donald Trump took office early this year. It is also the first patrol near land feature included in The Hague ruling which invalidates China’s claim to the disputed territories.
The US official told Reuters the “maneuvering drill” carried out by the USS Dewey involved conducting a “man overboard” exercise, specifically to show that the operation remains an innocent passage that is within the FONOPS.
“USS Dewey engaged in normal operations by conducting a maneuvering drill inside 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef,” the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters.
“The ship’s actions demonstrated that Mischief Reef is not entitled to its own territorial sea regardless of whether an artificial island has been built on top of it,” he added.
Beijing, for its part, has claimed that two Chinese guided-missile warships warned the US warship to leave the area immediately. A protest has also been lodged with the US following the incident.