Pentagon May Poke China Over Disputed Islands

Defense chief considers sending planes, ships close to Spratly Islands
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 13, 2015 9:48 AM CDT
This aerial photo shows the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.   (Ritchie B. Tongo/Pool Photo via AP)
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(Newser) – Relations between the US and China might get testy in the very near future. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Pentagon is considering sending planes and ships close to a disputed set of islands in the South China Sea. China has been undertaking a massive project to make the islands—known in the West as the Spratly Islands—physically bigger, and the US wants to send a message that it does not recognize China's territorial claims. Defense chief Ash Carter is considering Navy surveillance flights over the islands, along with sending ships within 12 nautical miles.

"Such a move would directly challenge Chinese efforts to expand its influence in the maritime heart of Southeast Asia," observes Reuters. As the Journal notes, it's not clear whether China would back down in the face of US military might or ramp up construction in defiance. The US has remained outside the 12-mile zone to date to avoid raising tensions. A spokesman for the Chinese government calls the construction perfectly legit and says he hopes that "relevant parties," meaning the US, will "refrain from playing up tensions or doing anything detrimental to security and mutual trust."

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