>> The US is considering intensified naval patrols in the South China sea in a bid to challenge China's growing military presence there. A move that could further raise the stakes in one of the world's most volatile areas. Two US officials as well as Western and Asian diplomats tell Reuters that the Pentagon is weighing a more assertive program of so called freedom of navigation operations close to the disputed islands.
Last week, Reuters reported that two US Navy vessels sailed near the islands. While it had been planned for months and similar operations have become routine, it's believed to be the first time two US war ships have been used for such a maneuver. One Western diplomat said the operation is just the start, and that significantly more is being planned.
Adding quote, there is a real sense, more needs to be done. Satellite photographs taken last month showed China appeared to deploy surface-to-air or anti-ship missiles on one of the islands. The Paracel and Spratly Islands are disputed by several nations, including Vietnam and the Philippines. The two diplomats told Reuters that US officials are also pushing international allies and partners to increase their own naval deployments in the area.