“Quietly stalking some of China’s man-made islands”

U.S. Navy destroyers have been quietly stalking some of China’s man-made islands and claims in recent weeks ahead of a ruling on contested claims in the South China Sea. Over the past two weeks, the destroyers Stethem, Spruance and Momsen have all patrolled near Chinese-claimed features at Scarborough Shoal and in the Spratly Islands, according to two defense officials. “We have been regularly patrolling within the 14 to 20 nautical mile range of these features,” one official said, who asked for anonymity to discuss diplomatically-sensitive operations. The distance is important because if the ships patrolled within 12 miles, the Navy would handle it as a freedom of navigation operation that asserts U.S. rights to freely operate in waters claimed by other countries.

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