China has called the United States a “risk creator” in the South China Sea, after an American warship sailed through Chinese territorial waters near the disputed Spratly Islands.
China’s military said on Thursday that the USS Curtis Wilbur, a guided missile destroyer, had illegally entered the waters near the Chinese-claimed Islands without permission and then had been warned and sailed away.
Colonel Tian Junli, a spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army Southern Theater Command, said such actions “increase regional security risks, which easily causes misunderstandings, misjudgments and unforeseen maritime incidents.”
“This is unprofessional and irresponsible, and fully demonstrates that the US is an out-and-out South China Sea security risk creator,” Tian said in a notice posted on social media.
The Chinese military also said in a statement that Beijing opposed the US action, which it said violated its sovereignty and undermined regional peace and stability.
Beijing had on Wednesday blasted Washington for sailing the USS Curtis Wilbur through the Taiwan Strait, which took place earlier this week and was claimed by the US Navy to be a “routine” transit.
The South China Sea is a gateway to major sea routes, through which about 3.4 trillion dollars’ worth of trade passes each year. China claims sovereignty over much of the strategic waterway and has since 2014 built artificial islands on reefs and installed military bases on them.
Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei have overlapping claims with China to parts of the sea.
The United States, which sides with Beijing’s rival claimants in the maritime dispute, routinely sends warships and warplanes to the South China Sea to assert what it calls its right to freedom of navigation, ratcheting up tensions among the regional countries.
China has constantly warned the US against its military activities in the sea, saying that potential close military encounters between the air and naval forces of the two countries in the region could trigger accidents.