China may use force if the US proceeds with its plan to sail within 12 miles of a reclaimed island in the South China Sea. Australia, which previously supported the American plan, said it wouldn’t be part of it. “We wouldn’t participate in any surveillance or whatever other activities the United States might have talked about,” Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb said on Thursday in an interview with Bloomberg. He was commenting on the Pentagon’s plan to test China’s resolve to protect the waters around its artificial islands.

“On that issue, we’re not taking sides,” Robb added. China is building several artificial islands in the disputed sea territory hosting radar stations, airstrips and other facilities, which critics insist serve military purposes. China says the military aspect of its reclamation program is minimal and that the islands’ purpose is mostly civilian. At the same time Beijing believes that the islands are China’s proper sovereign territory and considers the waters within 12 miles of them to be its territorial waters. The US rejects the claims and, according to some media reports, is planning to sail a military patrol closer than 12 miles from at least one of the islands. CONTINUE