China chides USA over warship in S. China Sea

Washington sailed USS Dewey within 12 nautical miles of the Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands on Thursday (25 May), drawing a strong rebuke from China. Beijing slammed the USA for entering its waters “without permission” and warned of unexpected accidents in the strategic waterways.

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

Trump lambasted China during the 2016 presidential campaign, accusing Beijing of stealing United States jobs with unfair trade policies, manipulating its currency in its favour and militarising parts of the South China Sea.

“All operations are conducted in accordance with global law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever worldwide law allow”, Gary Ross, a Pentagon spokesman told PTI.

“It appears that US decision makers sought to be responsive to calls for continued FON operations following reports that none had been conducted this year”, Graham Webster, a senior fellow at Yale Law School’s China Center, wrote in an email. The exercise is the first since October and comes after friendly exchanges between the United States and China to settle trade issues and vows to cooperate to contain the nuclear programe of North Korea, a Chinese ally. The senators described the South China Sea as critical to US national security interests and to peace in the Asia-Pacific area.

U.S. Defense Department spokesman Maj.

A U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer reportedly sailed close to a man-made island claimed by China in the South China Sea Wednesday, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Events in the South China Sea will be a key point of debate when military and national security figures from the U.S., China, Japan and other Asia-Pacific powers meet in Singapore in early June for the annual Asia Security Summit, commonly known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea.

“Australia is extremely reluctant to participate in freedom of navigation operations that involve flying over or sailing through the 12 nautical miles around the islands”, said Alan Dupont, a former Australian defense intelligence official.

The U.S. had conducted the so-called “freedom of navigation” patrols under previous administration, where ships or planes go near features in the South China Sea claimed by China to test its assertions of exclusive access.

“The relevant action taken by the United States vessel undermines China’s sovereignty and security interests”, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters.

China has previously described such operations as a serious breach of law and an intentional provocation. While the US has continued to oppose China’s growing aggression in the disputed region, Beijing has held Washington responsible for creating tensions in the South China Sea region. The report points out that exact funding for the Chinese navy is unknown, and China’s overall military budget is believed by many experts to be higher than the official figure of $151.6 billion.

Otherwise, critics say, the operation would have resembled what is known as “innocent passage” and could have reinforced rather than challenged China’s claim to a territorial limit around the reef.

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