(Reuters) - The United States is expected to sail warships close to China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea within the next two weeks to signal it does not recognize Chinese territorial claims over the area, the Financial Times reported, citing a senior U.S. official.
The ships will sail within the 12-nautical-mile zones that China claims as territory around some of the islands it has constructed in the Spratly chain, the report said.
The White House, U.S. State Department and Pentagon did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the report.
China claims most of the South China Sea, in which the Spratly islands are located and through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims.
China has become more assertive in the South China Sea in recent years, the Financial Times said, adding its navy has been engaging in activities that the United States says threatens freedom of navigation in an area where a big chunk of global trade passes.
The move comes amid disagreement over several issues, including U.S. allegations that China is engaging in commercial cyber espionage.
(Writing by Lisa Von Ahn; Editing by Bernadette Baum)