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China voices strong protest against U.S. warship sails in South China Sea

China voices strong protest against U.S. warship sails in South China Sea

Thursday's freedom of navigation operation was the third of its kind carried out by the U.S. since President Donald Trump took office in January. Or at least it was theoretically the third patrol, since the Pentagon has been rather coy about confirming it happened, and the Chinese have forgone their customary complaints.

The United States and its regional allies have accused Beijing of inflaming tensions in the South China Sea by expanding islands and reefs into military installations, refusing multilateral negotiations over overlapping territorial claims and spurning a ruling past year from an worldwide tribunal that rejected the legality of China's claims to much of the sea.

"China is resolutely opposed to this kind of show of force and pushing of regional militarization by the US that may easily cause an unexpected incident at sea or in the air", China's Defense Ministry said in a statement. The Philippine military is thought to have monitored the freedom of navigation operation from a marine base located in a marooned ship on a nearby shoal, which sounds like one of the less appealing postings a Filipino marine could draw.

The Trump administration has vowed to conduct more robust South China Sea operations.

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"China is very displeased with this and will bring up the issue with the USA side", the ministry added.

"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.

USA officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the USS John S McCain travelled to within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals.

Territorial waters are defined by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea as extending no more than 12 nautical miles from a state's coastline.

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Now it seems China's patience with the territorial row is running out. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims. Neither China's defence ministry nor its foreign ministry immediately responded to a request for comment from Reuters.

The USS John S McCain sailed within six nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands on Thursday as part of a "freedom of navigation" operation, which prompted the Chinese navy to warn off the US destroyer. Geng reiterated the Chinese government's willingness to safeguard national sovereignty and its maritime rights and interests. US officials say the military will continue to sail, fly and operate wherever permitted by global law.

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.

"This clearly shows just who doesn't want to see stability maintained in the South China Sea, and who is the biggest factor in pushing the 'militarization" of the South China Sea".

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Geng reiterated that the United States provocation would force China to take further measures to strengthen homeland defense capacity.


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