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, London's Financial Times reported Thursday, 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.
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 Times said, adding that its navy has been engaging in activities that the United States says threatens freedom of navigation.
The move comes amid disagreement over several issues, including U.S. allegations that China is engaging in commercial cyber espionage.