By AUDREY McAVOY
HONOLULU (AP) - Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani is expressing his support for the U.S. Navy's sailing of a warship close to one of China's artificial islands in the South China Sea.
Nakatani met Pacific Command commander Adm. Harry Harris in Hawaii on Tuesday.
Nakatani told reporters he told Harris that the U.S. military was at the forefront of the international community's efforts to protect open, free and peaceful oceans in the South China Sea.
He told reporters he expressed Japan's support for U.S. actions to Harris.
The U.S. Navy sailed a guided missile destroyer inside what China claims is a 12-mile territorial limit around Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands last month.
The move was a challenge to what the U.S. considers Beijing's "excessive claim" of sovereignty in those waters.