A US warship sailed near a disputed island in the South China Sea on Saturday in a bid to counter efforts to limit freedom of navigation, the Pentagon said over the weekend.
No ships from China’s military were in the vicinity of the guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur when it passed near Triton Island in the Paracel Islands, it said.
“This operation challenged attempts by the three claimants – China, Taiwan and Vietnam – to restrict navigation rights and freedoms,” Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said, according to Reuters.
The operation sought to challenge policies that require prior permission or notification of transit within territorial seas.
“No claimants were notified prior to the transit, which is consistent with our normal process and international law,” Davis said.
China condemned the US action as provocative.
“The American warship has violated relevant Chinese laws by entering Chinese territorial waters without prior permission,” the foreign ministry in Beijing said.
It described the American action as “intentionally provocative and “irresponsible and extremely dangerous”.
“Regardless of whatever provocative steps the American side takes, China’s military will take all necessary measures to firmly safeguard national sovereignty and security,” it said.
The US Navy conducted a similar exercise in October in which the guided-missile destroyer Lassen sailed close to one of China’s man-made islands, also drawing a rebuke from Beijing.
– Contact us at [email protected]