In what seems to be a major challenge to China’s claim of ownership to the disputed South China Sea, US Navy warship was sighted sailing with 12 nautical miles of the artificial island mounted by China. This is the first challenge of its kind in this most important waterway to Beijing since Donald Trump assumed office as President, US officials said.

Warship deployment

According to the officials who spoke anonymously, the USS Dewey sailed near the Mischief Reef in the Island of Spratly, in the midst of islets, shoals and reefs where China has continuously disputed with its neighboring countries.

Beijing said that its warship had sent stern warning to the US ship and it made strong representation with the United States. It further stressed its vehement opposition to the Freedom Of Navigation operation of the US Navy in the disputed waterway.

A move at Countering Beijing

This is the first of its patrol since October, which is aimed at countering what Washington views as Beijing’s acts of restricting navigational freedom in this highly important water. This comes on the heel of President Trump’s quest for China’s cooperation in pressuring its North Korean ally from discontinuing its nuclear weapon programs.

UN generally defines territorial waters as an extension of at most 12 nautical miles from the coastline of a state.

A White House official said that it was the first naval patrol close to a land feature which included in a judgment made against China in 2016 by the international arbitration court in The Hague, Netherland. The ruling dismissed China’s claim over the large part of the South China Sea, which has a huge deposit of oil and natural resources.

China's claim

The US has condemned Beijing’s action for constructing artificial islands and mounting military facilities in the disputed sea and is worried that freedom of movement could be restricted.

Allies of the United States in the region became worried as the Trump administration failed to carry out operations in the South China Sea during the first few months of his assumption of office.

A top US commander in the Asia-Pacific region, Admiral Harry Harris hinted last month that the United States would most likely be conducting freedom of navigation exercises in the disputed South China Sea.

However, the US military posits that the exercises routinely carried out all over the world, regardless of areas claimed by allies and partners, and they are free from political disposition.