White House spokesman Josh Earnest says U.S. ships would sail wherever international law allows, when asked if the U.S. had plans to send warships to the South China sea. Rough Cut (no reporter narration)
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) The United States is considering sailing warships close to China's artificial islands in the South China Sea to signal it does not recognize Chinese territorial claims over the area, a U.S. defense official said on Thursday. The Financial Times newspaper cited a senior U.S. official as saying U.S. ships would sail within 12-nautical-mile zones that China claims as territory around islands it has built in the Spratly chain, within the next two weeks. The Navy Times quoted U.S. officials as saying the action could take place "within days," but awaited final approval from the Obama administration. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he was aware of the media reports but did not have any comment on future policy decisions. However, he added that the U.S. reserved the right to sail anywhere international law allows. "And all of that is certainly consistent with the principle that the president identified in the Rose Garden standing next to the Chinese president," he told reporters at the Thursday briefing. China claims most of the South China Sea, where the Spratly islands are located and $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims.