US Navy sails near South China Sea island militarized by Beijing

US Navy sails near South China Sea island militarized by Beijing

The US Navy has sent a destroyer near a disputed island in the South China Sea that Beijing has fortified with military installations to claim territorial rights in the region.

The sailing came as the Chinese military entered the third day of a show of force around Taiwan, 1,600 kilometers near the northern entrance to the South China Sea, in response to a brief visit by the Taiwanese president to the United States. 

In a statement Monday, the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet said the guided-missile destroyer USS Milius passed within 12 nautical miles, the internationally recognized limit of a nation’s territorial waters, of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, known as the Nansha Islands in China.

Mischief Reef, which is located in the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone, is also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. But Beijing has asserted its claims to the island by building it and placing military infrastructure on it.

The United States maintains that such actions violate the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“Places like Mischief Reef that submerge at high tide in their naturally formed state have no right to a territorial sea. The land reclamation efforts, facilities and structures built on Mischief Reef do not change this characterization under international law,” the US 7th Fleet said in the statement.