From FT:Just in: @USNavy prepared to sail w/i 12mi of China's manmade islands in #SouthChinaSea "w/i 24hrs", has POTUS approval -Def. Official— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) October 26, 2015
The US navy is poised to start freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea in a high-stakes effort to push back against Chinese territorial claims over artificial islands in the disputed waters.
In a move that will enrage Beijing, the USS Lassen, a guided-missile destroyer, will sail inside the 12-nautical mile zones of two man-made islands — Subi and Mischief reefs — that China has built in the contested Spratly Island chain.
A senior US defence official said it would sail through the area in the early hours of Tuesday morning. China has repeatedly warned that it would not tolerate any effort to violate what it considers its territory.
Earlier this month, a senior Chinese naval officer said the People’s Liberation Army would hand a “head-on blow” to any foreign forces that violated Chinese sovereignty. His comments came after the Financial Times reported that the US was poised to launch its operations.
The manoeuvre will mark the first time since 2012 that the US navy has sailed through the 12-nautical mile zone surrounding any islands claimed by China. It is aimed at demonstrating that Washington does not recognise any territorial claims over artificial islands in the South China Sea.