US warship sails near South China Sea reef claimed by Beijing

Pauline Gross
June 9, 2017

Mischief Reef was not entitled to a territorial sea as it was underwater at high tide before it was built up by China and was not close enough to another feature entitled to such a territorial sea, said Poling.

And it comes amid warmer relations between the nations, with Mr Trump saying Washington has reduced pressure on Beijing on other issues as it tries to secure its help over North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Until the operation on Wednesday, the Pentagon had turned down requests from the US Pacific Command in Hawaii, under the command of Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., for such maneuvers.

Trump blasted Beijing during the 2016 presidential campaign for militarizing parts of the South China Sea, stealing American jobs with unfair trade policies and manipulating its currency in its favor.

China's Defense Ministry said it had made representations with USA officials over the matter.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters at a regular press briefing in Beijing on Thursday that the U.S. warship trespassed in its waters "without permission".

"We did it a year ago, freedom of navigation assertions against 22 different countries all over the world".

"The situation in the South China Sea is cooling down and showing positive signs of development", the foreign ministry spokesman said. Beijing says that the latest United States move disrupts the peace process in the region.

But James Char, a China analyst at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, said the manoeuver was just the USA signalling that it is a "credible strategic guarantor to its allies" in the region.

-China bilateral relations. It was not until late 2015 that the US challenged China's claims to the South China Sea. China claims the entire South China Sea.

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"We have a comprehensive Freedom of Navigation Operations program that seeks to challenge excessive maritime claims in order to preserve the rights, freedoms, and uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under global law", Davis said in a statement to AFP.

Kang went on to assert that China "has indisputable sovereignty of the Nansha Islands and its adjacent waters", stating, "We firmly oppose any country damaging China's sovereignty and security in the name of navigation and overflight freedom".

"We are continuing regular FONOPS, as we have routinely done in the past and will continue to do in the future", Defense Department spokesman Cmdr.

According to the Pentagon, the U.S. in 2016 conducted operations "challenging excessive maritime claims of 22 coastal states, including allies and partners". China also made solemn representations, a diplomatic protest, to the U.S., he said.

"By stirring up trouble in the South China Sea, domestically, the U.S. military can ask the Trump administration for more resources to contain China", he said. "We operate in accordance with global law", Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said in a statement.

In March, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang stressed the defense equipment on the artificial islands were to maintain freedom of navigation in the region. "Many of those countries are friends and allies", he said.

China has repeatedly warned the United States against any military activities in the South China Sea.

The US operation came a week after the Pentagon said that Chinese jets conducted an "unprofessional" intercept of a US radiation sniffing plane.

"We will continue to do them", he said.

Other reports by GizPress

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