U.S. sends naval warships near China-claimed SCS islands
29 May, 2018, 12:36 | Author: Diane Mills
The Chinese military says it has dispatched warships after U.S. Navy vessels sailed near Beijing-claimed islands in the South China Sea.
The Higgins guided-missile destroyer and the Antietam guided-missile cruiser came within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands, according to an American official who only spoke on the condition of anonymity.
They carried out maneuvering-operations near Tree, Triton and Woody islands.
The ministry said late Sunday that the Chinese military had warned the two US warships to leave after they entered waters near the contested Paracel Islands in the strategic waterway.
In a statement, ministry spokesman Wu Qian said Chinese navy vessels were deployed "to conduct legal identification and verification of the USA warships and warn them off".
In a separate statement, China's Foreign Ministry urged the United States to stop such actions.
'China will continue to take all necessary measures to defend the country's sovereignty and security, ' it added, without elaborating.
"China's continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serve to raise tensions and destabilize the region", a Pentagon spokesman, Marine Lt. Col. Christopher Logan, said.
The US military conducts what it calls "freedom of navigation" voyages in the South China Sea to contest Beijing's assertion of territorial rights in the area, although the US has no claims of its own in the disputed region.
China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which about US$3 trillion worth of sea-borne goods passes every year.
These types of operations are known as "freedom of navigation" with naysayers claiming that they have little impact on Chinese behavior and are largely symbolic.
Last weekend China's air force landed bombers on islands in the sea as part of a training exercise, triggering concern from Vietnam and the Philippines. Earlier in the month, the United States also formally protested the deployment of missiles and radar equipment on three artificial islands China has built in the Spratly Islands. RIMPAC is the world's largest maritime military exercise and is held bi-annually in Hawaii, usually in June and July.
Chinese officials have accused Washington of viewing their country in suspicious, "Cold War" terms.
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