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China slams US Navy’s new ‘provocation’ in South China Sea

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) sailing in the waters off the Korean Peninsula. (Photo by US Navy)

China has blasted the US Navy for sending yet another warship close to Chinese-held territories in the South China Sea, saying it amounted to a breach of China’s sovereignty.

On Thursday, the US Navy’s USS John S. McCain warship sailed within 12 miles of Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly chain in the South China Sea.

“The US destroyer's actions have violated Chinese and international laws, as well as severely harmed China's sovereignty and security,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said in a statement.

“China is very displeased with this and will bring up the issue with the US side,” he added.

This was the US Navy’s third such mission under Donald Trump’s presidency. Beijing said the move was aimed at challenging its “indisputable sovereignty” over the disputed waters.

Territorial waters are generally defined by international law as extending at most 12 nautical miles from a country's coastline. 

Two other US Navy ships approached China-claimed islands in the South China Sea in July and May.

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This time, Chinese warships were scrambled to identify the USS McCain and “warn it off,” the Foreign Ministry said.

“The US provocation also forced the Chinese side to take measures to further enhance the national defense capability,” it added.

China’s sovereignty claim over the sea has been challenged by five regional nations – Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.

The US, however, says it supports none of the territorial claims and only sends the warships to protect what it calls “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea, which acts as a strategic transfer route for Chinese goods and is believed to be rich in natural resources.

Washington has constantly accused Beijing of undertaking a land reclamation program through building artificial islands in the sea and deploying weapons there.

China has rejected the claim, saying the islands serve civilian purposes only.

The new development comes amid Washington’s attempts to get Beijing on board for more international pressure on North Korea over its development of nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles.

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