A U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer sailed close to China's man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea on Tuesday, drawing an angry rebuke from Beijing, which said its warships tracked and warned the American vessel.
The patrol by the USS Lassen was the most significant U.S. challenge yet to the 12-nautical-mile territorial limits China asserts around the islands in the Spratly archipelago and could ratchet up tension in one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.
One U.S. defense official said the USS Lassen sailed within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef. A second defense official said the mission, which lasted a few hours, included Mischief Reef and would be the first in a series of freedom-of-navigation exercises aimed at testing China's territorial claims.
A Chinese guided-missile destroyer and a naval patrol ship shadowed and gave warnings to the U.S. warship "according to law", China's Defense Ministry said in statements on its website, adding that the military would take all necessary steps to protect the country's security. (REUTERS)