For US, Pacific showdown with China a long time coming

PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO - Tensions in the South China Sea reached a new high on Oct. 27, when the US Navy sent a guided-missile destroyer, the USS Lassen, within 12 nautical miles of artificial islands built and claimed by China.

Recent moves by the Navy and statements by its highest-ranking officers show that preparations for the exercise - and for an eventual showdown over the West Pacific - had been in the works for months.

The "freedom of navigation" exercise is Washington's most significant challenge to China to date and can be taken as a blunt statement to the world that the US does not recognise Beijing's territorial claims.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman issued an angry rebuke, saying "relevant authorities" monitored, followed and warned the USS Lassen as it "illegally" entered waters without the Chinese government's permission.

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