China says US aims to ‘stir up trouble’ with naval sail-by

Sergio Conner
February 12, 2019

"We respect all countries' right for freedom of navigation and flight under worldwide law, but we firmly oppose any action to jeopardize the sovereignty and security of countries under the pretext of freedom of navigation", Hua said Monday.

China's Foreign Ministry expressed anger on Monday after two USA navy ships sailed near islands claimed by Beijing in the disputed South China Sea.

The guided-missile destroyers USS Spruance and USS Preble sailed near the Beijing-claimed Spratly Islands earlier Monday as part of what Washington calls "freedom of navigation operations", Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily press briefing.

The Chinese side immediately conducted verification and identification on the USA ships and warned them to leave, said the spokeswoman.

She demanded the United States "immediately stop its provocative actions" after the two destroyers conducted what Washington called "freedom of navigation" exercises in the area.

"The relevant actions of the USA warships violated Chinese sovereignty and undermined peace, security, and order in the relevant sea areas". The deployment is seen as the latest attempt by Washington to stand up to what it believes are attempts by Beijing to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, where Chinese, Japanese and other Southeast Asian navies operate.

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China claims almost all of the South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it.

China's foreign ministry expressed anger on Monday after the warships sailed in the disputed South China Sea. In January, the destroyer USS McCampbell challenged China's claims to the Paracel Islands. The Navy has carried out several FONOPS in the South China Sea in recent years, where China has built artificial islands and air strips and installed other military capabilities.

"All operations are designed in accordance with worldwide law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever global law allows", Doss said, adding "that is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe".

It has claimed the U.S. is responsible for ratcheting up war fears in the region by sending warships and military planes close to territory China believes it is entitled to.

The two countries are also at odds over regional security, including Washington's overtures to the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own.

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