Six nations in the region lay claim to parts or all of the Spratly Islands, a collection of reefs, rocks and other natural features. In the last two years, China has begun constructing islands on top of the reefs and claiming territorial seas around them to gain fishing and resource rights to most of the South China Sea.
Alleged reclamation by China is seen on what is internationally recognized as the Johnson South Reef in the South China Sea.
Photo Credit: Philippines Department of Foreign Affiars/AFP
Navy Times reported the patrol was imminent Oct. 8, pending approval from the Obama administration.
"I think that we have to continue to proceed in accordance with international norms," Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John M. Richardson told reporters Oct. 15. "[This is] part of routine navigation in international waters, consistent with international rules there: I don't see how these could be interpreted as provocative in any way."
"The passage of U.S. vessels within 12 nautical miles of China's man-made features in the South China Sea is a necessary and overdue response to China's destabilizing behavior in the region," Forbes said in a statement. "International law is clear that China has no legitimate claim to sovereignty over these waters, and it is high time that this administration reaffirmed America's enduring commitment to freedom of navigation and the maintenance of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region."
David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.