USA warship sails close to China-held island in disputed sea

12 August, 2017, 23:04 | Author: Brenda Erickson
  • Mattis Pentagon Ngo

Beijing voiced displeasure today after a U.S. warship sailed near an artificial island in the disputed South China Sea, an operation that prompted the Chinese navy to warn off the American destroyer.

"McCain" illegally entered the waters near the reef and conducted a so-called "freedom of navigation operation" on Thursday without permission of the Chinese government, Xinhua quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang as saying.

"China is strongly dissatisfied with this", Geng said in a statement, adding that Beijing would lodge an official protest with Washington.

The South China Sea is filled with small islands, reefs and shoals and there are many territorial disputes between countries in the area. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the U.S. official told AFP a Chinese frigate sent radio warnings at least 10 times to the USS McCain.

"They called and said 'Please turn around, you are in our waters, '" the newspaper's source said.

The Pentagon declined to provide any details but said that all operations are conducted in accordance with global law.

In July, a US Navy destroyer sailed within 12 miles of another disputed island in the South China Sea claimed by China, also a "freedom of navigation exercise".

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The Trump administration has vowed to conduct more robust South China Sea operations. It's true in the South China Sea.

The US is not involved in the long-seething disputes in the busy and potentially oil- and gas-rich waters involving China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

But in recent years Beijing has managed to weaken regional resistance by courting some ASEAN members.

Now it seems China's patience with the territorial row is running out.

According to the Chinese Defense, Chinese navy guided missile frigates "took immediate action to identify and verify the U.S. ship, and warned and dispelled it".

The United States has criticized China's construction of islands and build-up of military facilities in the sea, and is concerned they could be used to restrict free nautical movement.

Thursday's mission comes as the U.S. seeks greater Chinese involvement on resolving the tension over its neighbor, North Korea's, continuing missile tests, which are perceived in Washington as a serious threat to the U.S. and its regional allies.

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