Sen. John McCain has called on the Pentagon to publicly clarify the intent of last month's U.S. Navy patrol in the South China Sea after analysts suggested the operation could have actually reinforced China's claim to several manmade islands, according to a report.
The destroyer USS Lassen sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Spratly Islands, which includes artificial islands in the South China Sea, on Oct. 27. China condemned the actions, since Beijing claims ownership of them, while lawmakers on Capitol Hill praised the "freedom of navigation" mission that many said was long overdue.
U.S. officials said last week that the destroyer avoided military drills during the operation, a move analysts said could actually reinforce China's claim that the territory belongs to them since it could be interpreted as "innocent passage" through sovereign waters, Reuters reported.
On Tuesday, McCain, R-Ariz., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, demanded in a letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter that the Pentagon clarify the purpose of the mission to ensure there are no misunderstandings.