(From Reuters)

U.S. destroyers have sailed close to Chinese-held reefs and islands in the disputed South China Sea in recent weeks, U.S. naval officials said on Thursday, patrols likely to fuel tension ahead of landmark ruling over Beijing’s maritime claims.

Destroyer Spruance is one of three warships to have patrolled near some of China’s islands and reefs in the South China Sea

The destroyers Stethem, Spruance and Momsen have been patrolling near Chinese-held features in the Spratlys archipelago and the Scarborough Shoal, which is near the Philippines, the officials said. The patrols were first reported by the Washington-based Navy Times newspaper.

Pressure has been rising in the region ahead of a July 12 ruling by an arbitration court hearing the dispute between China and the Philippines over the South China Sea in the Dutch city of The Hague.

China has refused to participate in the case and vowed to ignore the rulings which the United States insists are binding and an important test of Beijing’s willingness to adhere to international law. Read More

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