After months of internal debate, the White House permitted the Defense Department to sail one ship near a reef in the South China Sea that China claims. The Chinese reaction shows Beijing has no intention of backing down. Now the Obama administration is debating what to do next.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter confirmed on Tuesday that the Lassen, a U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer, traveled Monday within 12 miles of the Subi Reef, which was underwater until the Chinese government built it into an artificial island. Under questioning from the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carter said the U.S. has the right to operate near the Chinese structures. He expressed support for doing such a “freedom of navigation operation” again.
“What you read in the newspaper is accurate, but I don’t want to say when, whether or how we operate anywhere in the world,” he said. “These are operations that we should be conducting normally.”
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