USS Preble Sails Near Scarborough Shoal in South China Sea

Elias Hubbard
May 20, 2019

China on Monday denounced a USA warship sail-by near disputed islands in the South China Sea as a violation of its sovereignty, amid mounting tensions over trade between the two countries.

Preble sailed 12 nautical miles off Scarborough Reef "in order to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways", the commander said.

China has all along respected and upheld the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea that countries are entitled to under worldwide law, stressed the spokesperson.

Speaking at an worldwide security conference in Singapore Wednesday, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson said "routine" freedom of navigation operations will proceed with transparency, consistency and predictability.

The disputed South China Sea is just one of a growing number of flashpoints in the US-China relationship, which also include a trade tug-of-war.

China imposed retaliatory tariff hikes on $60 billion of American goods, and in the USA the price of soybeans fell to a 10-year low on fears of a protracted trade war.

Washington's daring actions followed last week's Chinese announcement that it will impose tariffs of up to 25 percent on $60 billion worth of American products, in retaliation for Trump's levies on $200 billion of Chinese goods. Clayton Doss, a spokesman for the Navy's Seventh Fleet, in a statement.

"The relevant actions of the U.S. warships violated China's sovereignty and undermined peace, security and good order in the relevant sea areas", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said. China deplores and firmly opposes such moves.

The United States is trying to disturb regional peace and stability by using the issue of freedom of navigation and flight, he added.

Sunday's operation was the latest attempt to counter what the United States believes is China's efforts to curb freedom of navigating in the South China Sea.

This is the second time in a month that the United States military has conducted an operation in the South China Sea.

China claims almost all of the sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it.

Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the sea, including on the Spratly Islands, which Beijing calls Nansha.

China defends its construction as necessary for self-defence and says the United States is responsible for ratcheting up tension by sending warships and military planes close to islands Beijing claims. Last week, an America naval official said its freedom of navigation movements in the region were "drawing more attention than they deserved".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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