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6 May, 2019 13:04

‘Violation of sovereignty’: Beijing warns US incursion into South China Sea ‘undermined peace’

‘Violation of sovereignty’: Beijing warns US incursion into South China Sea ‘undermined peace’

Two US warships that passed through the South China Sea violated China’s sovereignty, threatening peace and security, Beijing has said in reaction to what the US Navy called an “innocent passage” that “challenged” maritime claims.

The US guided-missile destroyers ‘Preble’ and ‘Chung Hoon’ traveled within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson Reefs in the Spratly Islands on Monday, a US military spokesperson told Reuters. The Chinese Navy reportedly asked the US vessels to leave.

“The relevant actions of the US warships violated China’s sovereignty and undermined peace, security and good order in the relevant sea areas,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a press briefing.

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“The Chinese side expresses strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition” to the operation, Geng added, noting that the ships had entered the area “without permission.”

A spokesman for the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet described the warships’ “innocent passage” as a means of challenging “excessive maritime claims” and preserving “access to the waterways as governed by international law.”

The South China Sea continues to be a flashpoint for deteriorating US-China relations. The US has been regularly sending its warships to patrol the disputed area, a policy denounced by Beijing.

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