Warning to China? USA launches Destroyer as North Korea row escalates

Henrietta Strickland
August 12, 2017

This is the third time that the US Navy has conducted a "freedom of navigation operation" or "fonop" under the Donald Trump presidency.

China expressed "strong dissatisfaction" Friday, after a US warship sailed near an artificial island in the strategic South China Sea.

China's Foreign Ministry confirmed the patrol, saying that the operation had violated worldwide and Chinese law and seriously harmed Beijing's sovereignty and security, adding that the Chinese Navy had "warned and expelled" the US warship. The Philippine military is thought to have monitored the freedom of navigation operation from a marine base located in a marooned ship on a nearby shoal, which sounds like one of the less appealing postings a Filipino marine could draw.

The Trump administration is dependent on Beijing to rein in the belligerent North Korea and have been pressing China to exert more economic and diplomatic pressure on the Kim Jong-un regime to prevent tensions from escalating further in the Korean peninsula.

"The US is the trouble maker in the South China Sea and has undermined regional stability", declared Zhang Junshe of the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute.

"That is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe", she said.

China has territorial disputes with its neighbours over the area.

The U.S. destroyer sailed 6 nautical miles past Mischief Reef Thursday as part of a freedom of navigation operation in global waters, a U.S. navy official said on condition of anonymity.

Twelve nautical miles marks the territorial limits recognised internationally.

North Island of the Paracel Islands
North Island of the Paracel Islands

Now it seems China's patience with the territorial row is running out. China has reportedly installed a missile defense system on the new islands.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a United States official told AFP news agency a Chinese frigate sent radio warnings at least 10 times to the USS McCain. Neither China's defence ministry nor its foreign ministry immediately responded to a request for comment from Reuters.

McCain, a guided-missile destroyer, 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.

He also insisted that such operations "seriously endanger lives".

"All operations are conducted in accordance with worldwide law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever global law allows", he said.

He said the concerns could then be discussed in the future meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) if China indeed proceeds with land reclamation and militarization.

"China is resolutely opposed to this kind of show of force and pushing of regional militarization by the US that may easily cause an unexpected incident at sea or in the air", the ministry said in a statement.

But China scoffed at the USA, calling the move a "provocation" that could seriously damage the two countries' strategic trust and also create difficulties and obstacles for their defence forces, Reuters reported.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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