United States warships again challenge Beijing's claims in South China Sea

Mae Love
February 12, 2019

But Hua slammed the USA, arguing that "China has indisputable sovereignty over islands in the South China Sea, including the Second Thomas Shoal, Mischief Reef, and the adjacent waters".

The US Navy sent two guided-missile destroyers to challenge China in the South China Sea, and Beijing is outraged.

The two sides are trying to hammer out a deal before the March 1 deadline when USA tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports are scheduled to increase to 25 percent from 10 percent.

"The US action violated the Chinese laws and worldwide laws, infringed China's sovereignty, damaged regional peace, security, and order", Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said at the time.

The same day the latest talks began, two USA warships sailed near islands claimed by China in the disputed South China Sea, a US official told Reuters.

However, Hua expressed anger about two US warships sailing on Monday near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea, saying this was creating tensions in the area.

Guided-missile destroyers USS Spruance and USS Preble entered the waters without permission from China, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing in Beijing.

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

"We conduct routine and regular freedom of navigation operations as we have done in the past and will continue to in the future", he said.

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Beijing asserts almost all of the South China Sea as its territorial waters, while Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts.

In January, the destroyer USS McCampbell sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands.

The rising military tension comes against the backdrop of an increasingly bitter trade war between China and the US.

Freedom-of-navigation operations occur frequently, but they have not stopped China from bolstering its position militarily in the South China Sea. "Spruance and Preble sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Spratly Islands in order to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by global law". "All operations are designed in accordance with global law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever worldwide law allows".

The Chinese foreign ministry on Monday said the People's Liberation Army Navy sent vessels to track the USA warships sailing near the Spratlys and warned them to leave the area.

The US has accused Beijing of installing missiles and other military hardware on the disputed islands.

Mischief Reef is one of seven artificial islands built up by China over the last five years.

China says the construction is necessary for defence, and it was the U.S. that was responsible for tensions by sending warships and military planes close to islands Beijing claims.

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