US warship sails near disputed islands in S China Sea: officials By

27 March, 2018, 19:06 | Author: Shannon Aguilar
  • US Destroyer

Even as the world focused on the impending trade war between the U.S. and China, tension escalated in the disputed South China Sea region where the United States on Friday, March 23, conducted its first freedom of navigation operation since January, inviting Beijing's wrath.

The Chinese Defense Ministry did not give a location for the operation, but media reports, citing unidentified USA officials, reported that the Mustin had sailed within 12 nautical miles (22 km) of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands and carried out maneuvering operations. China has territorial disputes with its neighbours over the area.

China dispatched military vessels to the area and warned the U.S. ship to leave.

The latest "freedom of navigation" operation comes a day after US President Donald Trump signed a presidential memorandum that would impose a tariff of up to $60 billion on Chinese imports.

When asked about the operation, the US military said its activities are carried out under worldwide law and American forces operate in the region on a daily bases. It described the actions of the American ship as seriously harming China's sovereignty and security, which threatens regional peace and stability.

However, China's Defence Ministry in a statement late Friday called the American behaviour a "serious political and military provocation against China. The Chinese military is firmly opposed to it".

The guided-missile destroyer, the USS Dewey sailed within 12 nautical miles of the artificial Mischief Reef in the South China Sea's Spratly Islands at the time.

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It said that the situation in the waterway had stabilized thanks to the efforts of China and Southeast Asia countries, but warned that the USA insistence "on provoking incidents" and "creating tensions" in the South China Sea "runs counter to the desire of regional countries to seek stability, while promoting cooperation and development".

The U.S. determination to "manufacture tensions" flies in the face of the wishes of countries in the region to seek cooperation and development and will not enjoy popular support, the foreign ministry said.

In 2017, the USA ships had carried out four such operations in five months.

The US military put countering China and Russian Federation at the center of a new national defense strategy it recently unveiled.

China claims the South China Sea and its land features as its sovereign territory, a claim disputed or rejected by other countries in the region.

Combats drills are routine exercises carried out by the Chinese navy on various parts of the South China Sea, including those which are disputed.

Earlier this week, Taiwan's defense ministry said it shadowed a Chinese aircraft carrier group travelling in a southwesterly direction in the Taiwan Strait. 'China holds indisputable sovereignty over the islands and their surrounding waters in the South China Sea, ' Chinese defense ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said in a statement via CNN.

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