China voices strong protest against USA warship sails in South China Sea

The USS John Mc Cain destroyer in the Asia Pacific region

The USS John Mc Cain destroyer in the Asia Pacific region

A UNITED STATES naval vessel passed through the South China Sea within 12 nautical miles of a Chinese artificial island on Thursday, in a move likely to agitate Beijing. The vessel passed the island at a distance of 12 miles as part of what the USA authorities called "freedom of navigation operation".

"Chinese Navy stated that it identified the USA warship, warned and expelled it as some parties from outside continue to meddle in the region under the guise of "free navigation", Geng said".

"The Chinese side is dissatisfied with and opposed to the relevant behaviour of the USA side".

China's Foreign Ministry has once again protests the U.S. naval visits in what it claims are its own territorial waters.

In the previous administration, the Philippines was among the major voices in the regional bloc calling for stronger wording in ASEAN statements against China and its aggression in the South China Sea.

In the latest sail-by, US military officials notified Philippine counterparts of the maneuver, a Philippine official told the AP, adding Filipino forces were not involved.

The U.S.is not involved in the long-seething disputes in the busy and potentially oil- and gas-rich waters involving China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

China has been ambiguous about its precise territorial claims around such artificial islands. The island itself is claimed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

Twelve nautical miles marks the territorial limits recognised internationally.

The collection of islands, which is spread over a period of more than 150,000 square miles, is seen as of great military and territorial significance.

A Chinese frigate and a USA destroyer engaged in a heated communication exchange in the South China Sea on Thursday, AFP reported citing own sources.

Tensions escalated a few years ago when China began to build seven reefs, including Mischief, into islands, including three with runways, which the USA and China's neighbors fear could be used to project Beijing's military might and potentially obstruct freedom of navigation.

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"It would be best if this apparent evidence can be vetted for accuracy if only to prove the trust and confidence that all disputants over the territory in South China Sea.need to have in each other moving forward", said President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a United States official told AFP news agency a Chinese frigate sent radio warnings at least 10 times to the USS McCain.

"They called and said "please turn around, you are in our waters", the official said.

The US official said the interactions were all "safe and professional", with the operation of the USS McCain lasting about six hours from start to finish. Neither China's defence ministry nor its foreign ministry immediately responded to a request for comment from Reuters.

McCain on Thursday entered the waters near Mishchief Reef in the Spratly Islands to carry out freedom of navigation operations in the area, reports Efe news.

He also insisted that such operations "seriously endanger lives". Geng reiterated the Chinese government's willingness to safeguard national sovereignty and its maritime rights and interests.

"Certain external forces are swimming against the current and continuing to stir up trouble under the pretext of "freedom of navigation, '" Mr. Geng said".

"All operations are conducted in accordance with worldwide law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever global law allows", he said.

China insists that a much-delayed code of conduct between it and ASEAN members over the disputed sea must not be legally binding, a demand to which Southeast Asian countries have so far acquiesced.

"China is resolutely opposed to this kind of show of force and pushing of regional militarisation by the U.S. that may easily cause an unexpected incident at sea or in the air", it said.

But China scoffed at the United States, calling the move a "provocation" that could seriously damage the two countries' strategic trust and also create difficulties and obstacles for their defence forces, Reuters reported.

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