A US Navy destroyer sailed near islands claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea on Wednesday, prompting China to call for an immediate end to “provocative acts”.
The US Navy vessel Wayne E. Meyer, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, carried out the operation, traveling within 12 nautical miles of Fiery Cross and Mischief Reefs, Reuters reports, citing a spokeswoman for the Japan-based US Navy’s Seventh Fleet.
The operation was conducted “to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law,” the spokeswoman was quoted as saying.
The US military operation comes amid an increasingly bitter trade war between China and the United States that sharply escalated last Friday, with both sides leveling more tariffs on each other’s exports.
The US military has a long-standing position that its operations are carried out worldwide, including areas claimed by allies, and are separate from political considerations.
Chinese military spokesman Li Huamin said in a statement early on Thursday that the US vessel had encroached upon Chinese territorial waters near the Spratly Islands without the government’s permission and had been warned to leave.
“The facts prove that the United States’ so-called ‘freedom of navigation’ is actually an assertion of maritime hegemony that ignores international law, seriously harms China’s sovereignty and security interests, and seriously harms peace and stability in the South China Sea region,” Li said.
“We urge the US side to immediately stop such kinds of provocative acts, to avoid causing unexpected incidents.”
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