Navy destroyer sails near disputed island claimed by China

China steps closer to military dominance in South China Sea with missile shelters, hangars

The destroyer came within 12 miles of Triton Island - which is claimed by China - much to the fury of Beijing.

The 12-mile (22km) line is the internationally recognised distance that separates the shores of a sovereign nation from global waters.

Trump has sought China's help in reining in North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes and tension between Washington and Beijing over military installations in the South China Sea could complicate those efforts. While Trump acknowledged that China tried to do so, he concluded that it had not worked out and made two foreign policy decisions Thursday that angered Beijing-the introduction of new sanctions on Chinese institutions and individuals suspected of having business ties to blacklisted North Korean entities, and the announcement of a $1.4 billion arms deal with the government of Taiwan, a Beijing rival. "All operations are conducted in accordance with worldwide law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever global law allows", the department's representative said.

In the Paracel Island chain and in the Spratlys, China has built up a number of small islands into fully functional military facilities complete with airfields and antiaircraft defences.

This frustration was seen in a tweet sent by Trump late last month.

So by sailing within that distance of Triton, the Stethem dismissed China's claim to both the island and the waters around it.

The United States in fiscal year 2016 conducted freedom of navigation operations "challenging excessive maritime claims of 22 different coastal states, including claims of allies and partners", the Pentagon said.

China has recently built up its facilities on Triton Island, including a new helicopter landing site, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, part of the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

However, Lt. Cmdr. Matt Knight, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet, told The Japan Times in a statement that "FONOPs are not about any one country, nor are they about making political statements".

Beijing's continuing construction in the area will allow Chinese planes to operate over almost the entire South China Sea, according to the AMTI.

Showing satellite images, AMTI said Beijing has constructed new missile shelters and communications facilities on Fiery Cross (or Kagitingan, as named by the Philippines), Mischief (Panganiban), and Subi (Zamora) Reefs.

Two more domes are under construction at Mischief Reef, it said.

Citing Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang as saying, Xinhua reported that China dispatched military vessels and fighter planes in response to warn off the USA vessel.

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