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China summons US ambassador over vessel patrol in South China Sea

In this March 12, 2015 US Navy handout photo, the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82) is underway in formation with the Republic of Korea patrol craft Sokcho (PCC 778) during exercise Foal Eagle 2015. (AFP photo)

China has summoned the United States ambassador to protest against a US ship patrol near a group of man-made islands in the South China Sea.

Chinese state television said Tuesday that Max Baucus was summoned to China’s Foreign Ministry to hear Beijing’s strong criticism of the naval patrol close to its man-made islands.

China's Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui called the ship’s presence in the vicinity of the islands “extremely irresponsible,” and urged Washington to refrain from actions that harm China's sovereignty and security interests.

The ministry had earlier issued a harsh statement over the patrol, saying it is strongly opposed to the sailing of the military ships in the 12-mile (21-kilometer) territorial limit around Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands archipelago.

Meanwhile, Lu Kang, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, also condemned the patrol of US warship in South China Sea.

"China's relevant department has been monitoring, tracking and warning the US warship according to the law. The actions of the U.S. warship threaten China's sovereignty and security interests, endanger the safety of personnel and facilities on the reef, and harm regional peace and stability," said Lu Kang.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang points out a reporter to receive a question at a regular news conference in Beijing, October 27, 2015. (Reuters Photo)


Lu called on the US to "immediately correct its wrongdoing."

"We strongly urge the US side to treat seriously China's protests, immediately correct its wrongdoing, not adopt any dangerous and provocative acts, threatening China's sovereignty and security interests, and keep its commitment of not taking sides in sovereignty disputes to avoid further harms to China-US ties and regional peace and stability," said Lu Kang.

Officials in Washington reject China’s claims about the islands, saying the artificial reefs and islets cannot be considered sovereign territory.

According to international law permits, military vessels have the right of “innocent passage” in transiting other countries’ seas without notification. China says it respects the right of navigation but insists that actions such as the Tuesday entry of USS Lassen destroyer into territorial limits are illegal.

Beijing has yet to specify the exact legal status of its maritime claims, and keeps claiming almost the entire South China Sea area. Other states like Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, some of them major US allies, claim either parts or all of the sea.

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