US Navy ship sails near disputed islands in South China Sea

January 07, 2019 17:02
China says it had sent military ships and aircraft to identify and warn off a US Navy vessel that had sailed close to the Paracel Island chain.  Representational image: Bloomberg

A US guided-missile destroyer sailed near disputed islands in the South China Sea in what China called a “provocation”, Reuters reports.

The USS McCampbell carried out a “freedom of navigation” operation, sailing within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Island chain, “to challenge excessive maritime claims”, the US Pacific Fleet was quoted as saying in an emailed statement.

The operation was not about any one country or to make a political statement, the statement said.

The report did not specify when exactly the event happened.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the conduct of the US ship had violated China’s and international law, and that China had lodged “stern representations”.

“We urge the United States to immediately cease this kind of provocation,” he said, adding that China had sent military ships and aircraft to identify and warn off the ship.

Asked about the timing of the operation, which was held as trade talks between China and the US were under way in Beijing, Lu said resolving issues would benefit the two countries and the world.

“Both sides have the responsibility to create the necessary positive atmosphere for this,” he said.

China claims almost all of the strategic South China Sea and frequently lambastes the US and its allies for freedom of navigation naval operations near Chinese-occupied islands.

Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan have competing claims in the region.

China and the US have in the past repeatedly traded barbs over what Washington says is Beijing’s militarization of the South China Sea by building military installations on artificial islands and reefs.

China defends its construction as necessary for self-defense and says that it is rather Washington that is responsible for ratcheting up tensions in the region by sending warships and military planes close to islands that Beijing claims.

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