Dispatch of US warship to South China Sea serious provocation: Beijing
Beijing blasts the passage of an American destroyer close to the islands it controls in the disputed South China Sea as “serious provocation,” saying such military activities pose a challenge to China’s “sovereignty and security.”
China’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that an American guided-missile destroyer — the USS Mustin — entered the contentious waters on Friday and was “warned off” by two Chinese ships.
The ministry did not give a location for the operation, but according to media reports, the American warship had sailed within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, known as Nansha in China, and carried out maneuvering operations there.
It also slammed the US for “serious political and military provocation” through the contested waters. It asserted that Beijing “holds indisputable sovereignty over the islands and their surrounding waters in the South China Sea.”
“By repeatedly sending military ships into these areas without authorization, the US has seriously harmed Chinese sovereignty and security, violated basic rules of international relations, and endangered regional peace and stability,” it added.
A US Navy destroyer has carried out a “freedom of navigation” operation, sailing close to the disputed South China Sea island controlled by China.
Beijing also accused Washington of damaging “the atmosphere of military-to-military relations between the two countries, and cause close encounters by air and naval forces of the two countries, which could easily trigger miscalculation or even accidents at sea or in air.”
It has repeatedly warned the United States against sending warships to patrol the South China Sea, which has been at the center of a longtime territorial row between China and its neighbors.
Washington, which backs Beijing’s rivals in the row, claims such operations are meant to protect “freedom of navigation” in the sea, a gateway for trillions of dollars in maritime trade each year.
China’s island-building in the South China Sea has also drawn criticism from the US, which accuses Beijing of undertaking a land reclamation program to build artificial islands, which could be used as military bases.
However, Beijing, which claims almost the entire South China Sea, has denied the allegations and says any military activities on the islands have been for self-defense purposes.
China has constructed several artificial islands over the past few years in the South China Sea.
The developments come as China-US ties have hit a new low over Washington’s fresh package of economic sanctions, which will impose tariffs on up to $60 billion of Chinese goods.
China has shown its readiness in the face of a trade war with the US, declaring plans to levy additional duties on up to $3 billion of American imports in a tit-for-tat move.