Yesterday, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said the United States will sail and fly wherever international law allows - and made a point to add, the South China Sea is no exception. The US and its allies have been in discussions about an appropriate response to China's construction of artificial islands in the disputed area and, as we hear from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute, it looks like a decision has been made.
In a series of meetings, senior US officials told Asian allies that the United States will send warships within 12 miles of one of the artificial islands that China's constructed in the South China Sea. On Monday, the New York Times reported that the senior China advisor on the National Security Council told a meeting of analysts that the White House has decided to go ahead with what it calls Freedom of Navigation patrols. The majority of the world's maritime trade crosses the South China Sea and US patrols would challenge China's territorial claim to the area in general, and the legal status of its artificial islands in particular. Secretary Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the plans with their Australian Counterparts in Boston this week, and briefed Officials from the Philippines earlier. The Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Albert del Rosario, said, "Failure to challenge false claims of sovereignty would undermine (stability) and lead China to the false assumption that it's claims are accepted as a fait accompli."
In a statement on Friday, China's foreign ministry said, "There is no way for us to condone infringement of China's territorial sea and airspace by any country under the pretext of Freedom of Navigation." Analysts say the US patrol could come as soon as this week or next. Almost certainly near one of the rocks or reefs built up by Chinese engineers in the Spratley Islands, maybe either Subi, or Mischief Reef.