Washington – A US Navy guided-missile destroyer on yesterday sailed near disputed islands in the South China Sea where Beijing has built military installations, sparking anger in China as trade talks between the two countries kicked off.
The US and its allies periodically send planes and warships through the area, which is claimed by China, to signal to Beijing their right under international law to pass through the waters.
The USS McCampbell sailed within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometres) of the Paracel Islands “to challenge excessive maritime claims,” US Pacific Fleet spokeswoman Rachel McMarr told AFP.
She added that so-called “freedom of navigation” operations are “not about any one country, nor are they about making political statements.”
Beijing confirmed the sail-by, calling it a violation of China’s sovereignty which has damaged “peace, safety and order” in the South China Sea.
Aircraft and warships were scrambled, sending out warnings for the American vessel to leave the area, known as Xisha in Chinese.
“We urge the US to immediately stop such provocative actions,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular press briefing, adding that Beijing had lodged a diplomatic complaint with Washington.
“China will continue to take the necessary measures to defend national sovereignty and security.”