WASHINGTON — The US military might deploy warships and surveillance aircraft near artificial islands being built by China to challenge Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, officials said Wednesday.
But the US officials acknowledge such a move may fail to halt Beijing’s massive land reclamation effort, recently dubbed China’s “great wall of sand” by an American naval commander.
The Pentagon is weighing a range of options, including sailing destroyers or other naval ships within 12 nautical miles of the man-made islands, as well as flying P-3 and P-8 surveillance planes overhead, two defense officials told AFP.
The maritime and air patrols would be designed “to demonstrate support for freedom of navigation” and “to reassure our allies,” said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“We have never recognized these artificial islands as legitimate claims,” the official said.
“We see freedom of navigation as a fundamental, underlying principle that has to be upheld.”