CHINA has lodged a protest with the United States after an American warship sailed near the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea.
The US Navy missile destroyer Chafee entered China’s territorial waters near the islands on Tuesday and conducted a so-called “freedom of navigation” operation, without the permission of the Chinese government, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said yesterday.
China immediately dispatched military vessels and aircraft for identification and warned the US ship to leave, Hua said.
“The US vessel action violated Chinese laws and relevant international laws, undermined China’s sovereignty and security interests,” she said. “China is firmly opposed to that and has lodged stern representations with the US.”
“China will continue to take resolute measures to protect Chinese sovereign territory and maritime interests. China urges the US to conscientiously respect China’s sovereign territory and security interests, conscientiously respect the efforts regional countries have made to protect peace and stability in the South China Sea, and stop these wrong actions,” Hua said.
The Chinese navy dispatched a missile frigate, two fighter jets and a helicopter to warn off the US ship, the defense ministry said yesterday. The Chinese military will further strengthen its naval and air defense capability to safeguard its sovereignty and security, the ministry said.
“It is a critical stage for the development of the relationship between Chinese and American armies, and we demand the US side earnestly take steps to correct its mistakes,” the ministry said.
Unlike in August, when a US Navy destroyer came within 12 nautical miles of a Chinese island in the South China Sea, US officials said the destroyer on Tuesday sailed close to but not within that range of the islands. Twelve nautical miles mark internationally recognized territorial limits.