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Mischief Reef, a Chinese-made artificial island in the South China Sea.   © Reuters
Shangri-La Asia Security Dialogue

US sail-by in South China Sea puts heat back on Beijing

First operation near man-made island under Trump a nod to China hawks

TOMOYUKI KAWAI and OKI NAGAI, Nikkei staff writers | China

WASHINGTON/BEIJING -- The U.S. Navy conducted its first freedom of navigation exercise near a Chinese-built artificial island in the South China Sea since President Donald Trump's inauguration, apparently in response to calls at home for the commander in chief to challenge Beijing's territorial claims in the waters.

The USS Dewey, a missile destroyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, U.S. military officials told multiple American news outlets Wednesday. This patrol questions China's claim that the waters surrounding the landmass, which is constructed from dredged-up sand, constitute a territorial sea. The last freedom of navigation operation took place in October, under then-President Barack Obama.

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