USA dares China, takes naval warships to Chinese waters without permission

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. Mc Cain sailing in the waters off the Korean Peninsula

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Friday the operation had violated Chinese and worldwide law, "seriously" impairing the country's sovereignty and security as well as "endangering lives".

McCain, a guided-missile destroyer, illegally entered the waters near the reef and conducted a so-called "freedom of navigation operation" on Thursday without permission of the Chinese government, Xinhua quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang as saying.

"The US military's provocative actions will only encourage the Chinese military to further strengthen the defence capacity building and firmly defend national sovereignty and security", said Wu.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) defended the statement of Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano that China has stopped its South China Sea reclamation activities in 2015, a claim refuted by a US-based think tank. This has prompted concern over prospects of an accidental clash near the tiny islets, which are claimed as Diaoyu in China and Tiaoyutai in Taiwan.

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McCain sailed near a Chinese-made island in the South China Sea in a freedom of navigation exercise in the disputed region, U.S. media reported. "Australia, which failed to find a balance between its economic dependence on China and security dependence on the United States, is also making trouble in the South China Sea", Jia Xiudong, a research fellow at China Institute of International Studies, wrote.

The United States has criticised China's construction of islands and build-up of military facilities in the sea, and is concerned they could be used to restrict free nautical movement.

After the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague ruled against Beijing's claims to the South China Sea, the USA resumed FONOPs.

China is reported to be inching a step closer to military dominance in the hotly-contested waters as it has continued to build missile shelters on Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi Reefs in the Spratly archipelago, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), which is part of Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies. "And that there is this freedom of navigation", he said.

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The US administration has been prodding China to work with North Korea through its diplomatic channels to tone down Kim's nuclear ambitions but Pentagon officials, including President Trump have felt increasingly frustrated with Chinese officials.

Perturbed by China's assertiveness, foreign ministers from the U.S., Australia and Japan released a joint statement, calling on "China and the Philippines to abide by the Arbitral Tribunal's 2016 award in the Philippines-China arbitration, as it is final and legally binding on both parties". China has ignored and dismissed the ruling as a sham. The South China Sea issues were a prominent focus, and the results of these meetings indicated a new low in USA diplomatic influence.

At a time when China and South-East Asian countries have agreed to solve and manage the South China Sea issue through bilateral talks and to avoid influence by non-regional forces, the USA behaviour shows that Washington wants to maintain its presence in the region, instead of solving the issue, Zhou said.

"We hope that the Japanese side could do more to help enhance mutual trust with China and other neighbouring countries and to safeguard regional peace and stability", Geng said.

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It comes as Donald Trump has urged China to do more to solve a worsening stand-off with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program. USA officials say the military will continue to sail, fly and operate wherever permitted by global law. Yet China apparently still claims the nine-dash line or exclusive economic zones (EEZs) from the Spratly features it occupies and has threatened to use force to back its claim.

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