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South China Sea : China protest USA ship presence

South China Sea : China protest USA ship presenceā€

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.

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.

Anonymous U.S. officials told Reuters the John S. McCain passed through a string of islets, reefs, and shoals in territory claimed by China before approaching Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands.

The Trump administration is dependent on Beijing to rein in the belligerent North Korea and have been pressing China to exert more economic and diplomatic pressure on the Kim Jong-un regime to prevent tensions from escalating further in the Korean peninsula.

Beijing claims nearly the entirety of the South China Sea, has deployed naval units and has reclaimed land from the sea to expand its presence, sparking protests from its neighbours.

Beijing also said it was "very displeased" with the warship's actions and urged the U.S. to respect to Chinese sovereignty and security.

China has territorial disputes with its neighbours over the area.

Tensions escalated a few years ago when China began to build seven reefs, including Mischief, into islands, including three with runways, which the US and China's neighbors fear could be used to project Beijing's military might and potentially obstruct freedom of navigation. The significance of the distance of 12 nautical miles derives from the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which generally grants coastal states jurisdiction over seas within 12 nautical miles of the coast.

Now it seems China's patience with the territorial row is running out. The island itself is claimed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

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

"We told them we are a USA (ship) conducting routine operations in worldwide waters", the official added.

However, on Friday, China's Foreign Ministry protested against the voyage of the United States naval vessel in what it keeps claiming are Chinese territorial waters.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement that the USS John S. McCain had violated Chinese and global law, undermined Chinese sovereignty and security, and endangered the safety of frontline personnel.

"China is strongly dissatisfied with this", Geng said in a statement, adding that Beijing would lodge an official protest with Washington.

"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 global law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever worldwide law allows".

AFP comments that in recent years Beijing has managed to weaken regional resistance to its South China Sea claims by courting some ASEAN members.

"It is clear who is not willing to see stability in the South China Sea and who is the major factor pushing for militarization in the South China Sea".



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