China condemns US Navy challenge in South China Sea

US Navy file photo of USS John S. McCain

The sail-by of a US Navy destroyer near one of China’s artificial islands built in the South China Sea “violated Chinese laws and international law and severely undermined China’s sovereignty and security”, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson told media during a press conference on August 11.

Spokesperson Geng Shuang was responding to questions related to a freedom of navigation operation performed by the US Navy destroyer USS John S. McCain on Thursday when it sailed within six nautical miles of China’s Nansha Qundao island (Spratly Islands).

Shuang said Chinese armed forces dispatched naval ships to identify and verify the US warship according to law and warn it to leave.

A report in The Guardian cited US officials saying that a Chinese frigate contacted the US destroyer 10 times telling the US ship it should turn around and leave Chinese waters.

“China has indisputable sovereignty over Nansha Qundao and its adjacent waters. The Chinese side is strongly dissatisfied with this and will lodge solemn representations to the US side,” Geng Shuang said.

Elaborating further, Shuang said the operation moved against a positive trend of “cool-down and de-escalation”, referring to the China-ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held in the Philippines several days ago.

USS John S. McCain’s sail-by on Thursday was the third such operation the US Navy carried out under president Donald Trump. The previous two were conducted by USS Dewey and USS Stethem in May and July, respectively.

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