Beijing expressed "serious concern" Thursday about a reported U.S. plan to challenge China's South China Sea territorial claims by sailing a Navy ship near one of its newly built artificial islands.
The U.S. newspaper Navy Times reported on Wednesday that the Navy may soon receive approval for the mission to sail inside the 12-nautical mile (21-kilometer) territorial limit surrounding one of the man-made structures.
That would drive home Washington's stance that the artificial islands do not constitute sovereign territory and build a legal case under international law for the U.S. position, the newspaper said.
Five other governments also claim the region in part or in total. The U.S. doesn't take a formal position on sovereignty but insists on freedom of navigation in the vital sea lanes and airspace above.
Asked about the report at a daily briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China has long made clear its position on the South China Sea, which Beijing claims virtually in its entirety, along with its islands, reefs and atolls.
"I have not noticed the latest report you have mentioned. However, having heard what you said, we express serious concern about it," Hua said.