China has blasted this week’s sail-by a U.S. Navy warship in the South China Sea, deeming it provocative and illegal.
To remind, the USS William P. Lawrence destroyer on Tuesday, May 10, performed a freedom of navigation operation near the Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands.
Responding to the operation, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters during a regular press conference on May 10 that the USS William P. Lawrence destroyer illegally entered the contested waters.
The Chinese side monitored, followed and issued warnings to the US vessel which they say “has threatened China’s sovereignty and security interests, endangered safety of personnel and facilities on the reef, and jeopardized regional peace and stability”.
“The US has been waving the banner of navigation and overflight freedom and flexing its muscles in the South China Sea by ordering its military vessels and planes to sail or fly close to or even enter waters and air space near relevant islands and reefs of China’s Nansha Islands. To peace and stability as well as navigation and overflight freedom in the South China Sea, such provocative act is the greatest threat”, Kang said.
He further added that China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and the adjacent waters in which the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam also have territorial claims.
On the other hand, the U.S. State Department said that the operation was legal and did not single out China. The aim of the sail-by was “to challenge excessive maritime claims of some claimants in the South China Sea”.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau explained that these excessive maritime claims were inconsistent with international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea covenant in that they purport to restrict the navigational rights that the United States and all states are entitled to exercise.
The May 10 sail-by marked the third time a U.S. Navy destroyer has entered waters claimed by China. According to the U.S., these operations are carried out to challenge attempts by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam to restrict navigational rights around the features they claim.