China, U.S. head toward faceoff in South China Sea


WASHINGTON — The Chinese government gave a stern warning Wednesday that it will protect its sovereignty in the South China Sea after a cat-and-mouse pursuit of a U.S. warship by a Chinese frigate.

“The Chinese side will take resolute measures to safeguard national sovereignty and safety. We will keep an eye on the situation in relevant waters and airspace and respond to any violation of China’s sovereignty and threat to China’s national security,” said Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Her warning came after an advanced Navy warship — the USS Fort Worth — sailed through the South China Sea on Monday near islands China is building in an effort to extend its territorial claims. The United States considers the area to be international waters, and the Philippine and Japanese navies have conducted exercises in the area in an attempt to counter the Chinese claims.

The Pentagon will continue to patrol, from air and sea, the area around the Spratly islands, Army Col. Steve Warren said Wednesday. International law does not recognize man-made islands as extensions of the mainland, Warren said.

The Navy and Air Force patrols are conducted to ensure freedom of navigation, Warren said.

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