US warship sails past disputed SCS island

25 May 2017 | By Gaurav Jeyaraman

In the first provocative action since Donald Trump took office, a US warship sailed 12 nautical miles away from an artificial island that China constructed on a disputed part of the South China Sea.

The US Dewey ship sailed past the Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands.

The operation was one of the US' freedom of navigation operations.

In context: US challenges China's SCS claims

China claims 90% of SCS

China claims 90% of the South China Sea based on the "nine-dash-line" drawn in the 1940s. It loops to a point about 1,800kms south of China's Hainan Island. Beijing has also built airstrips and military infrastructure on several disputed islands to enforce its claim.

The DisputeWhat is the South China Sea dispute about?

The South China dispute is over territory and sovereignty over ocean areas, particularly along the Paracel and the Spratly island chains.

These island chains are claimed by a number of countries in the region including China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.

The islands lie among the world's busiest shipping lanes and have vast mineral resources around them, making them highly strategic assets.

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Claims Who claims what?

China claims the largest amount of territory and issued maps in 1947, claiming the Paracel and Spratly islands were Chinese territory.

Vietnam disputes China's claims stating it has ruled the islands since the 17th century.

The Philippines claims the islands citing geographical proximity, while Indonesia claims the Natuna islands.

Malaysia and Brunei claim territory in the region citing the EEZ provisions in the UNCLOS.

25 May 2017US warship sails past disputed SCS island

FONPWhat are freedom of navigation patrols?

The US and its allies in the SCS started getting concerned that China's artificial island build-up could pose a threat to navigating the open waters of the SCS.

They conduct these routine operations to keep Chinese aggression in the region in check. The last FONP was conducted under Obama in October 2016.

US allies were concerned that the new government would cease this trend.

US says SCS operations are regular

Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said, "We operate in the Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea. We operate in accordance with international law."
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Sino-US relationsSino-US relations on the brink?

Analysts said that the latest patrol would damage the thaw in Sino-US ties after Trump hosted President Xi Jinping at his home in Florida.

The US has been leveraging Beijing to counter North Korea's belligerent stance in the region.

Trump had ruffled Chinese feathers in his early days in office, by accusing China of stealing US jobs, and taking a call from Taiwan's president.