U.S. sends naval warships near China-claimed SCS islands

Elias Hubbard
May 28, 2018

U.S. officials accused Beijing of breaking a promise the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, made in 2015 when he said China did not intend to militarise the disputed territories.

According to USA officials, this time, the Higgins guided-missile destroyer and the Antietam, a guided-missile cruiser, came within 12 nautical miles of the disputed Paracel Islands.

The U.S. vessels' maneuvering operations were carried out near the islands of Tree, Lincoln, Triton and Woody, the report said.

China's Ministry of National Defense said the United States "seriously violated China's sovereignty" and undermined peace, security and mutual trust between the two nations and their militaries.

Chinese defence chiefs have said U.S. warships entered the waters and did not leave when warned by Beijing's warships and aircraft.

In a separate statement, China's foreign ministry urged Washington to stop such actions.

The US military did not immediately comment on the operation, but said US forces operate in the region on a daily basis, Reuters said.

An aerial view of Woody Island in the Paracels
REUTERS An aerial view of Woody Island in the Paracels

China's island-building programme in the South China Sea has sparked concern around the region and in Washington about Chinese intentions.

The Pentagon said the withdrawal of the invitation was in response to what it sees as Beijing's militarisation of islands in the disputed South China Sea, a strategic waterway claimed in large part by Beijing.

The South China Sea remains a contested area, with surrounding countries - Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam - disputing China's territorial claims.

China has been deploying serious military power to the region - including constructing manmade islands bristling with missiles. In retaliation for the deployment, the Pentagon last week rescinded an invitation for China to participate in a multinational naval exercise this summer near Hawaii.

RIMPAC is held every two years and involves more than 20 countries, including Japan, India, and the UK.

A Chinese H-6K bomber flying along a runway in the South China Sea. China has reminded the USA that it has a right to self-defense and has urged Washington not to "hype up the so-called "militarization" of the South China Sea".

Chinese officials have accused Washington of viewing their country in suspicious, "Cold War" terms.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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