China claims most
of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of
world trade is shipped every year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei,
the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.
A U.S. Navy destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of an
island claimed by China in the South China Sea on Saturday to
counter efforts to limit freedom of navigation, the Pentagon
said, prompting an angry reaction from Beijing.
Manila has asked the U.S. to patrol the area together after
China began test flights from Fiery Cross Reef, one of three
artificial islands where Beijing has built airfields.
"We do discuss that principle (joint patrols) with the
Philippines and so I am not discarding that possibility," U.S.
Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg told reporters.
"But we are not going to make announcements about that
beforehand because it is our view that we have every right under
international law to exercise freedom of navigation in the South
China Sea and we will continue to do so."
The Philippine has challenged Beijing before the arbitration
court in The Hague, a case Beijing has not recognized.
Foreign and defense ministers from the United States and the
Philippines met in Washington last month for the second time in
more than three years to discuss trade and security, focusing on
the South China Sea.
The United States has no South China Sea claim and says it takes
no sides, though it has been highly critical of China's
It carried out a navy patrol near areas claimed by China,
Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines in October.
(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Nick Macfie)
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