A United States Navy destroyer on Sunday, July 2, sailed within 12 nautical miles of a disputed island in the South China Sea that is claimed by China,Vietnam and Taiwan.
The Pentagon confirmed earlier that an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer of the U.S. Navy called USS Stethem, passed by the Triton Island in the Parcel Islands to “test the claims of the three countries.”
A spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Lt. Cmdr. Matt Knight did not confirm the recent exercise but said the activity is part of the routine of the U.S. Navy operations.
“We conduct routine and regular FONOPs, as we have done in the past and will continue to do in the future. Summaries of these operations are released publicly in the annual DoD Freedom of Navigation Report, and not sooner,” Knight said in a statement.
The U.S. Pacific Fleet maintains that their recent operations is not politically-motivated as they have done the same kind of operation before.
“We have a comprehensive Freedom of Navigation Operations program under which US Forces challenge excessive maritime claims across the globe to demonstrate our commitment to uphold the rights, freedoms, and uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law,” the US Pacific Fleet said.
A statement from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Lu Kang said the U.S. had “trespassed” and that China sent “military vessels and fighter planes in response to warn off the U.S. vessel.”
China expressed their dissatisfaction of the U.S. operation and called it “a serious political and military provocation.” The U.S. “stirs up trouble” and runs “in the opposite direction from countries in the region who aspire for stability, cooperation and development,” the ministry statement said.
Further, Beijing called on Washington to cease from operating within China’s territory which “violates their sovereignty and threaten their security.”
“The Chinese side will continue to take all necessary means to defend national sovereignty and security,” Lu said.
According to CNN, the operation on Sunday happened days after the Trump administration “made a number of moves that appeared to irk Beijing.” This include “sanctions against Chinese entities doing business with North Korea and the approval of a new arms trade to Taiwan.
Sunday’s operation was the second reported under the Trump administration.
The first one was on May 24, when the guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey sailed within 12 miles of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands. (Jennifer Soriano/AJPress)