China has slammed the US for intruding into its territorial waters by sailing a missile destroyer close to a disputed South China Sea island, and vowed to take “necessary measures” to protect its sovereignty.
In a statement published on its official website on Saturday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said US missile destroyer USS Hopper approached within 12 nautical miles of Huangyan Island in the South China Sea on the evening of January 17.
The ministry's spokesman Lu Kang said Chinese naval forces ordered the American warship to pull back after establishing its identity.
Lu further stated that the US destroyer infringed upon China’s sovereignty and security interests and threatened the safety of Chinese naval vessels and personnel in the area.
The official added that China “firmly opposes” US efforts to use freedom of navigation as a pretext to harm its sovereignty and called on Washington to “correct its mistakes.”
This is while China’s Defense Ministry also announced in a separate statement on Saturday that the persisting deployment of US warships to the region was “undermining regional peace and stability” as well as damaging bilateral ties.
Huangyan Island, also known as the Scarborough Shoal, is claimed by both China as well as the Philippines. Its status is often discussed in conjunction with other territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
The sea has long been at the center of maritime disputes between China and several regional countries, including Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.
China has repeatedly warned the United States against any military activities in the South China Sea.
In the past, the US, which has sided with China’s rivals in the territorial rows, has censured Beijing for constructing islands as well as military installations in the region, claiming that such build up could be used to hamper free nautical movement.
Meanwhile, American warships have carried out a series of “freedom of navigation” patrols in the region.
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