WASHINGTON TIMES — Tensions between the U.S. and China are again rising as Beijing scrambled a team of fighter jets and warships into the hotly contested South China Sea, in response to what China claims is a breach of its territorial waters by U.S. Navy destroyer.
A pair of Chinese fighters and three navy ships headed for the the Fiery Cross reef near the Spratly Islands on Tuesday, as U.S.S. William P. Lawrence conducted a so-called Freedom of Navigation Operation, or FONOP, near the reef.
The William P. Lawrence, a U.S. destroyer armed with a suite of guided missiles steamed within 12 nautical miles of the reef when the fighters were launched, Pentagon spokesman Navy Cmdr. Bill Urban said in a statement Tuesday.
The FONOP near the Fiery Cross, which Beijing maintains lays within Chinese territorial waters in the South China Sea, was a surveillance mission to observe the new 10,000-foot runway constructed on the reef, according to Chinese officials.