TOKYO - The US initiated its "freedom of navigation" operations in the South China Sea recently by sailing the USS Lassen through disputed waters in the Spratly Islands.
The Aegis missile equipped destroyer, which is homeported at the US Navy's base in Yokosuka, Japan, sailed within 12 nautical miles (about 22km) of artificial structures built by China in the area on Oct. 27.
China regards the reefs on which the structures are built as part of its territory, and therefore claims waters within 12 nautical miles of them as its territorial waters, as provided for under international law.
By dispatching the USS Lassen within 12 nautical miles of the man-made structures, the US made clear its rejection of China's territorial claims. China responded by sending two naval vessels to track the US warship.
The world's two most powerful countries are now involved in something of a confrontation in the South China Sea.
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