The United States is considering intensified naval patrols in the South China Sea to counter what it sees as China’s militarization of the strategic waterway, a move that could further increase tensions with Beijing, officials say.
The Pentagon is planning to step up its program of so-called freedom-of-navigation operations close to Chinese installations on disputed reefs, two US officials and Western and Asian diplomats close to discussions told Reuters.
The officials did not say how close Washington was to finalizing a decision.
In addition, US officials are encouraging allies to increase their naval operations in the South China Sea to monitor Chinese facilities in the region.
“What we have seen in the last few weeks is just the start, significantly more is being planned,” said one Western diplomat, referring to a patrol late last month in which two US warships sailed near islands claimed by China.
“There is a real sense more…