US Navy guided-missile destroyers and guided-missile cruisers. U.S. Navy photo by Lt.j.g. Caleb Swigart
Two US Navy destroyers conducted a freedom-of-navigation operation in the South China Sea on Monday, challenging China’s claims to the Spratly Islands.
Beijing accused the US of entering Chinese waters without permission and engaging in provocations that threaten China’s sovereignty.
It was the second such US operation in the South China Sea this year.
Freedom-of-navigation operations occur frequently, but they have not stopped China from bolstering its position militarily in the South China Sea.
The US Navy sent two guided-missile destroyers to challenge China in the South China Sea, and Beijing is outraged.
Two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers — the USS Spruance and the USS Preble — conducted a freedom-of-navigation operation on Monday, sailing within 12 nautical miles of Chinese outposts in the contested Spratly Islands.
The purpose was “to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways,” as well as to show that the US “will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” Cmdr. Clay Doss, a US Navy 7th Fleet spokesman, told CNN.
Beijing sharply criticized the operation. A spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry, Hua Chunying, accused the US of entering Chinese waters without permission and engaging in provocations that threaten China’s sovereignty, the South China Morning Post reported.
China’s claims to the South China Sea were largely discredited by an international arbitration tribunal three years ago. Beijing rejected the ruling and the authority of the tribunal.
The Chinese military has since bolstered its presence in the region through deploying surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship missiles, jamming technology, and other defense systems to Chinese-occupied territories.
Monday’s sail-by is the second US freedom-of-navigation operation in the South China Sea this year. In January, the destroyer USS McCampbell challenged China’s claims to the Paracel Islands.