Beijing slams USA 'freedom of navigation' exercises in South China Sea

Elias Hubbard
August 12, 2017

A U.S. warship sailed close to a Chinese man-made island in the disputed South China Sea in an operation that challenged China's vast territorial claims in busy global waters, a U.S. Navy official said Thursday.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said in a statement the U.S. move undermined Chinese sovereignty and security and endangered the safety of frontline personnel from both sides.

The US Navy has patrolled the area in what it calls freedom of navigation exercises, while Beijing claims the Philippines and Vietnam use Washington's support to escalate the situation in the region. Investors have in recent days fled so-called risk assets on concerns a dispute between the USA and North Korea will end in a full-fledged war.

China has rejected the claim, saying the islands serve civilian purposes only.

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

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak to the press about the matter.

This time, Chinese warships were scrambled to identify the USS McCain and "warn it off", the Foreign Ministry said.

Sailing within those 12 miles is meant to show the U.S. does not recognise territorial claims there.

The South China Sea is filled with small islands, reefs and shoals and there are many territorial disputes between countries in the area.

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

An global tribunal refuted China's claim to a large swathe of the South China Sea in 2016 in a case brought by the Philippines, though Beijing has rejected the ruling.

The Spratly Islands, also known as the Nansha Islands, are disputed territory between China and a number of U.S. allies, including Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

"The US military's provocative actions will only encourage the Chinese military to further strengthen the defence capacity building and firmly defend national sovereignty and security", Qian said.

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

It comes amid soaring tensions on the Korean Peninsula over Kim Jong-un's missile programme, and as the United States seeks to push China into more assertively restraining North Korea. It is also believed to be rich in natural resources, including oil.

An inside view of the Chinese military over 120 years.

"But provocative actions by the United States like this one have seriously harmed mutual strategic trust, and caused difficulties and obstacles in developing military-to-military relations".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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