US sets more patrols in waters disputed with China: report

US sets more patrols in waters disputed with China: report
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U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) is gearing up for more regular naval patrols in the South China Sea, a move that is likely to further complicate relations between the U.S. and China.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the Pentagon has set a schedule for freedom of navigation operations to challenge Chinese maritime claims in the sea.

PACOM is planning to conduct two or three patrols over the next few months, according to the Journal.

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In the past, such operations, referred to as "fonops" in the military, have been conducted more sporadically, and have faced accusations by China of being provocations by the U.S. 

By establishing a more regular regime of patrols in the sea, U.S. officials are hoping to dull China's claims that operations are destabilizing, according to the Journal.

Since President Trump took office in January, he U.S. has conducted three "fonops" in the South China Sea, compared to four across former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTrump confirms 2018 US cyberattack on Russian troll farm Democrats see convention as chance to underscore COVID-19 message Neil Young updates song 'Lookin' for a Leader' opposing Trump, endorsing Biden MORE's two terms in office.

The U.S. has become increasingly wary of China's claims in the South China Sea, where Beijing has created or expanded islands for runways, ports and other military facilities. 

Still, the scheduled patrols could add more tension to the U.S. relationship with China at a time when Washington is seeking to increase pressure on Beijing to help rein in North Korea.

China has expressed concern over the growing tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, and has urged deescalation by both sides. 

Trump has complained that China has not done enough to quell the threat posed by North Korea's rapidly advancing nuclear and missile programs.