(From Foxtrot Alpha)
By Tyler Rogoway
Hours ago the USS Lassen made its way within 12 miles of China’s man-made islands near Subi Reef, part of the Spratly Islands archipelago. During its roughly 72 mile freedom of navigation mission, the American Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer was shadowed closely by the Chinese Type 052C guided missile destroyer Lanzhou and the Sovremennyy Class patrol destroyer Taizhou.
China could have used one of its Coast Guard ships or smaller patrol craft to execute the same mission, but decided to use one of its most powerful ships instead. This was a clear and loud message that China also has hard power in the region regardless of the state of its island outposts and it can instantly respond on a military level to American power-plays.
China’s use of a Type 052C guided missile destroyer, one of their most modern surface combatants with roughly the same mission as the American Arleigh Burke Class destoyer (the USS Lassen’s class) is interesting as it represents a hard-military response to America’s challenge to China’s territorial claims.
During the Lassen’s five hour transit, the crew were continuously warned by the shadowing destroyers to leave Chinese waters immediately. This stance was echoed shortly after the Lassen left the area when the U.S. Ambassador to China was summonsed over the incident, with Chinese officials calling it “irresponsible” and “illegal,” adding that “China will resolutely respond to any country’s deliberate provocations.”
The Navy has stated that the USS Lassen’s mission will not be a one-off occurrence and to expect more freedom of navigation drills in the South China Sea in the future. Considering China’s protests and the military posture they have already taken by using a pair of destroyers greet the USS Lassen, increased militarization on both sides is seemingly inevitable. China will almost certainly accelerate its island building and outfitting activities now that the U.S. has officially challenged Beijing’s wishes to stay away. Read more