US warship sails in disputed South China Sea amid escalating trade tensions
Iran Press TV
Mon May 20, 2019 04:45AM
The US military says its warships have sailed close to the islands claimed by Beijing in the disputed South China Sea, in a move that angered China, which is already engaged in trade tensions with Washington.
A US military spokesman, Commander Clay Doss, said Sunday that the guided-missile destroyers Preble sailed near China's man-made islands on Monday.
The warship sailed "within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough Reef in order to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law," said Doss.
Beijing – which claims almost all of the South China Sea – is yet to react to the operation, the second such activity this month.
Reacting to the move, China's Foreign Ministry said it "strongly urges US to stop such provocative actions."
The ministry's spokesman Lu Kang made the comment at a daily news briefing in Beijing on Monday.
The resource-rich sea has long been a source of tension between Beijing and Washington, which regularly dispatches its warships and warplanes to the waters as part of what it describes as "freedom of navigation" patrols.
Beijing has constantly warned the US against its military activities in the sea, saying that potential close military encounters by air and naval forces of the two countries in the region could easily trigger miscalculation or even accidents at sea or in air.
It has also urged the US on numerous occasions to stop meddling in Beijing's territorial disputes with its neighbors, which have competing sovereignty claims to the strategic waters.
The US, however, has been taking sides with several of China's neighboring countries.
Over the past few years, Beijing has constructed several artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, a move that Washington has denounced as a land reclamation project. Washington also accuses Beijing of militarization of the South China Sea by building military installations on that islands and reefs.
China, however, says it is entitled to take defensive measures for its sovereign territory in the South China Sea and that such an action is normal. It rejects US claims that Beijing seeks to limit freedom of navigation in international maritime routes.
The latest move by the US military came as Washington has escalated its trade dispute with Beijing over the past weeks, raising speculations that tensions could even extend beyond the trade sphere and affect other areas of contention, including Taiwan as well as the South China Sea.
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