Monday, 23 July, 2018

US destroyer sails near South China Sea island

Chinese People's Liberation Army women marines during a military exercise somewhere on the south China coast Chinese Navy to Hold Military Drills in South China Sea – Reports AFP 2018 STR
Cristina Norman | 27 March, 2018, 19:09

A US Navy destroyer carried out a "freedom of navigation" operation on Friday, coming within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built by China in the South China Sea, US officials told Reuters, a move likely to anger Beijing.

On Friday, the USS Mustin sailed close to Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, an island chain also claimed by the Philippines, a United States defense official told CNN.

Beijing insists that the repeated dispatch of USA warships to the South China Sea is "undermining regional peace and stability" and hurting bilateral relations.

The first time that a USA destroyer carried out a "freedom of navigation" operation under President Donald Trump, was in May 2017.

Such actions cause forces from both countries to come into close proximity and could easily cause a misjudgment or accident, and create serious political and military provocation for China, the ministry said.

"The provocative behavior by the United States side will only cause the Chinese military to further strengthen building up defense abilities in all areas".

In October 2017, the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Chafee also sailed close to the Paracels, provoking a stern reaction from the Chinese Defense Ministry.

"China holds indisputable sovereignty over the islands and their surrounding waters in the South China Sea", CNN quoted ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang as saying in the statement. 'By repeatedly sending military ships into these areas without authorization, the U.S. has seriously harmed Chinese sovereignty and security, violated basic rules of global relations, and harmed regional peace and stability'.

The South China Morning Post, an English-language newspaper in Hong Kong, cited Ni Lexiong (倪樂雄), a Shanghai-based military expert, as saying the USA was deliberately trying to put pressure on China with the warship as trade tensions between the two escalate.

It would be the second time in less than a year that Vietnam has had to cancel a major oil development in the busy South China Sea waterway under pressure from China.

China's navy will carry out combat drills in the South China Sea, the military's official newspaper said on Friday, describing the move as part of regular annual exercises. Nicole Schwegman, US Pacific Fleet spokeswoman, said.

Britain last month said one of its warships would pass through the South China Sea to assert freedom-of-navigation rights.

Correction: The story has been corrected to state that U.S. defense officials confirmed the operation Friday.

The U.S. has repeatedly objected to Beijing's expansion in the region and its building of artificial islands with military facilities, and insisted on freedom of navigation in the South China Sea's waters.

In January, a U.S. destroyer carried out FONOP and came within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough Shoal.

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