U.S. warships sail near South China Sea islands claimed by Beijing

by Garry Watts May 29, 2018, 0:28
U.S. warships sail near South China Sea islands claimed by Beijing

CHINA'S Defense Ministry says it will increase its "combat readiness" on Sunday after two United States navy warships entered the disputed waters of the South China Sea on a freedom of navigation operation (FONOP).

A statement on the Defence Ministry's website said the Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins and Ticonderoga class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam entered waters China claims in the Paracel island group "without the permission of the Chinese government".

The U.S. military vessels carried out manoeuvring operations near Tree, Lincoln, Triton and Woody islands in the Paracels, one of the officials said.

Citing Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian, the statement said the US warships "undermined strategic mutual trust between the two militaries and damaged peace, security and good order in relevant waters".

In a statement, the ministry said the military immediately dispatched naval ships and aircraft to "warn them off".

The Chinese Defense Ministry accused the U.S. of "provocation" and infringing upon China's sovereignty by conducting operations near the disputed Paracel Islands.

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano provided on Monday more details of what President Rodrigo Duterte's administration has been doing to defend the country's sovereignty in the disputed region amid criticism that it has been far too soft on China.

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The U.S. military does not comment on the specifics of what it calls "freedom of navigation" exercises meant to assert the Navy's right to sail and operate in any zone deemed legal under worldwide law.

China's claims in the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in shipborne trade passes each year, are contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Satellite photographs taken on May 12 showed China appeared to have deployed truck-mounted surface-to-air missiles or anti-ship cruise missiles at Woody Island.

This is a weekly look at the latest developments in the South China Sea, the location of several territorial conflicts that have raised tensions in the region.

The Paracel islands are part of a territorial dispute that China has with neighbouring countries. China's behavior is inconsistent with the principles and purposes of the RIMPAC exercise'.

China has accused Washington of viewing Beijing in "Cold War" terms.

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