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Trump Gets Tough On China At Sea As US Warship Puts Beijing’s Maritime Claims To The Test

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by Ryan Pickrell

Not only is the Trump administration hitting China on trade, but it is also pushing Beijing in the disputed South China Sea.

A U.S. Navy destroyer challenged China’s vast claims to the South China Sea Friday, sailing within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands as part of a “freedom of navigation” operation (FONOP), according to Reuters, citing U.S. officials.

The latest operation is believed to be the sixth FONOP the U.S. Navy has conducted in the South China Sea since President Donald took office. Former President Barack Obama was hesitant to challenge China’s maritime claims, conducting only four FONOPs during his presidency.

The U.S. Navy challenged China’s claims to Mischief Reef last May, Triton Island in the Paracel Islands in July, Mischief Reef in August, Chinese-occupied territories in the Paracels in October, the Scarborough Shoal in January, and now Mischief Reef. The Air Force has also conducted heavy bomber flights over the disputed South China Sea.

The latest move is expected to rile Beijing, which is already furious over the trade penalties Trump announced Thursday in response to Chinese theft of American intellectual property.

After the Trump administration revealed that it intends to impose about $60 billion in new trade penalties on China, the first targeted trade measures aimed directly at Chinese “economic aggression.”

“China is not afraid of and will not recoil from a trade war. China is confident and capable of facing any challenge. If a trade war were initiated by the U.S., China would fight to the end to defend its own legitimate interests with all necessary measures,” the Chinese Embassy in the U.S. said in response.

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