USA warship sails close to South China Sea island, China 'displeased'

Posted August 13, 2017

China on Thursday voiced strong protest against a US Navy warship passing close to the Meiji Reef in the South China Sea.

"The US destroyer's actions have violated Chinese and worldwide laws, as well as severely harmed China's sovereignty and security", Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said in a statement.

The Chinese military is firmly opposed to the China-related contents in Japan's Defence White Paper and has lodged stern representations to Tokyo, Chinese Defence Ministry's spokesman Wu Qian said on Tuesday (Aug 8) night.

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Experts and officials have criticised President Barack Obama for potentially reinforcing China's claims by sticking to innocent passage, in which a warship effectively recognised a territorial sea by crossing it speedily without stopping.

It was the third "freedom of navigation operation" or "fonop" during Trump's presidency.

"China holds indisputable sovereignty over Nansha Islands and surrounding waters", the Chinese Defense Ministry said early Friday. Geng reiterated the Chinese government's willingness to safeguard national sovereignty and its maritime rights and interests.

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Lorenzana did mention that his office would also ask the Department of Foreign Affairs headed by Sec.

"We urge the USA to immediately correct its mistake, stop provocations in the name of "freedom of navigation"," it said.

Although China opposes inclusion of the sea disputes in global conferences, partly to prevent the U.S. and other Western governments from intervening, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Japan's new top diplomat, Taro Kono, expressed concern over aggressive actions in the waters.

Such operations, Nauert said, get the "most attention" when they occur in the South China Sea. Reuters reported that $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes through the disputed trade route each year, and the Trump administration vowed to conduct more robust operations in the region in order to maintain these trade routes.

But China scoffed at the U.S., calling the move a "provocation" that could seriously damage the two countries' strategic trust and also create difficulties and obstacles for their defence forces, Reuters reported. China has territorial disputes with its neighbors over the area.

"China's own reclamation work did not end in mid-2015 with the completion of its artificial islands in the Spratlys", the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative said in an August 9 blog post, adding "Beijing continues to reclaim land farther north, in the Paracel Islands".

Its sweeping claims overlap with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei - all ASEAN members - as well as Taiwan.