U.S. warships again challenge Beijing's claims in South China Sea
12 February, 2019, 07:56 | Author: Sheila Harris
The move angered Beijing at a time when the U.S. and China ton are locked in a trade war and are negotiating a deal ahead of a March 1 deadline when USA tariffs on $ 200 billion worth of Chinese imports are expected to increase to 25 per cent from 10 per cent.
China's foreign ministry expressed anger on Monday over two US warships entering the South China Sea.
The USS Preble was one of two warships conducting the operation; they were shadowed by Chinese assets, but the interactions were routine and uneventful, according to a USA official. When asked if the Navy's move would affect the talks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called it "a series of US tricks, "according to Reuters".
'China has indisputable sovereignty over islands in the South China Sea, including the Second Thomas Shoal, Mischief Reef, and the adjacent waters, ' Hua said.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet confirmed the FONOP Monday afternoon with global media, stating that the operation was conducted "to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by worldwide law".
The Chinese foreign ministry on Monday said the People's Liberation Army Navy sent vessels to track the United States warships sailing near the Spratlys and warned them to leave the area.
"Relevant activities of the USA warships violated China's sovereignty and damaged peace, security and good order in relevant waters".
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Freedom of navigation operations, or FONOPS, are meant to remind other countries that all nations can operate in global waters. The official said Monday's operation focused on Mischief Reef, a location claimed by China, Vietnam and the Philippines. In January, the destroyer USS McCampbell sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands.
An airstrip, structures, and buildings on China's man-made Subi Reef in the Spratly chain of islands in the South China Sea.
It comes at a time of increasing tensions between the United States and China over an ongoing trade war.
Top US officials have attacked China for everything from human rights abuses to cyber espionage in America.
China says the bases are essential for self-defense and accused the USA of ramping up tensions in the region by sending battleships and warplanes close to the disputed islands.
The two countries are also at odds over regional security, including Washington's overtures to the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own.
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