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Beijing slams U.S. 'freedom of navigation' exercises in South China Sea

12 August 2017
Beijing slams U.S. 'freedom of navigation' exercises in South China Sea

Since the USA and global community reject China's claim to the island and the surrounding sea, the passage of a US destroyer close by the island amounts to a protest of sort, known as a "freedom of navigation" operation in Pentagon argot.

The operation took part in the South China Sea amid a backdrop of increasing tension in the region due to the ongoing North Korea crisis.

The so-called "freedom of navigation" mission involved the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer sailing within the 12-mile range of an artificial island reclaimed by China, Reuters reported, citing U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The US Department of State official also welcomed the Southeast Asian foreign ministers' reaffirmation of the importance of freedom of navigation.

Cayetano's statement echoed that of Wang, who said China stopped reclamation work in 2015.

However, the USA officials said that the USS John S. McCain sailed past an island in the disputed Spratly chain in the South China Sea, which is the third mission under the Trump administration.

Washington's critical actions came as it courts the help of China, North Korea's ally, in taming Pyongyang's nuclear weapons ambitions and ending its missile tests.

A spokesman for the Chinese foreign minister said: "China dispatched military vessels and fighter planes in response to warn off the U.S. vessel".

McCain was sent close to Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, a direct challenge to China's disputed territorial claims to the area. China has used dredged sand to expand the original reef into an artificial island big enough to hold an airstrip.

Beijing said that a "joint effort" by China and other countries to address the territorial disputes has yielded "signs of positive developments".

According to Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, Beijing continues to reclaim in the Paracel Islands, the most recent examples are at Tree Island and North Island.

"They happen off the coast of Canada" and "in the waters off shore of our major allies, friends, partners all around the world", she said.

"Vietnam is unlikely to take a role as active as Aquino", Xue said, referring to former Philippine president Benigno Aquino who took the South China Sea case to an global tribunal.

The reportedly concerned that China's construction of artificial islands and build-up of military facilities in the South China Sea are meant to restrict nautical movement in the area. Nicole Schwegman said all Navy operations "are conducted in accordance with global law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever worldwide law allows".

Although China opposes inclusion of the sea disputes in worldwide conferences, partly to prevent the U.S. and other Western governments from intervening, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Japan's new top diplomat, Taro Kono, expressed concern over aggressive actions in the waters.

'We express dissatisfaction and firm opposition to the Japan´s 2017 Defense White Paper, which contains statements about China's naval activities in the East and South Seas.

Its sweeping claims overlap with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei - all ASEAN members - as well as Taiwan.