‘Sovereignty & security violation’: Beijing outraged by US warship sailing off disputed island
In this latest clash over freedom of navigation in the disputed South China Sea, the USS ‘Hopper’ missile destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of Huangyan Dao, a tiny island claimed by China, on January 17. The vessel failed to get Beijing’s permission for entering the waters and was intercepted by the Chinese Navy, with China’s Foreign Ministry accusing the US of violating “sovereignty and security interests” as well as posing a “grave threat” to its forces stationed in the area.
“China is strongly dissatisfied with that and will take necessary measures to firmly safeguard its sovereignty,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said in a statement on Saturday. He also warned US forces against further “provocative moves” for the sake of “China-US relations and regional peace and stability.”
The spokesman added that China has “indisputable” control over the territory. However, it is also claimed by Taiwan (which is itself the subject of a sovereignty dispute with mainland China) and the Philippines.
China’s Defense ministry echoed Lu’s tone in a separate statement on Saturday, stressing that the military will step up vigilance against air and sea patrols to defend national and regional peace and stability.
The US and Chinese militaries have had frequent standoffs in the South China Sea. Despite Washington having no territorial claims in the area – unlike China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei – it has always stressed the necessity for freedom of navigation in the area and opposed China’s claims. Short of directly challenging Beijing in the highly-contested, resource-rich region, the US has been increasingly flexing its muscles there, staging joint drills with Japan and South Korea amid growing tensions with Pyongyang.
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