'Sovereignty & security violation': Beijing outraged by U.S. warship sailing off disputed island

Frederick Owens
January 22, 2018

The Chinese government on Saturday accused the USA of trespassing in its territorial waters when a US guided missile destroyer sailed near Scarborough Shoal to promote freedom of navigation in the disputed waters.

The USS Hopper came within 12 nautical miles of Huangyan Island on Wednesday, China's foreign ministry stated.

The US warship impaired China's sovereignty and security interests and caused a serious threat to Chinese vessels and personnel working in the area, Lu said, adding that the US side's behaviour broke basic protocols of global relations.

The Philippines said Sunday that it won't get embroiled in a fresh spat between the US and China involving Beijing's protest of an American warship passing near a Chinese-controlled shoal also claimed by the Philippines.

Mr Kang added that China "firmly opposes" efforts to use freedom of navigation as an excuse to hurt its sovereignty and urged the United States to "correct its mistakes". US vessels have conducted a series of "freedom of navigation" patrols in the region.

Zhang said the shoal was the Philippines' unspoken bottom line in its quiet diplomacy with China on the South China Sea.

"We do not wish to be part of a US-China intramural".

Beijing asserts sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea despite rival claims from the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and others.

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Known in Chinese as Huangyan Island, it lies about 120 miles west of the main Philippine island of Luzon, and about 370 miles southeast of China.

The US has slammed China for constructing islands and military installations in the region, arguing they could be used to obstruct free trade routes.

China's Defense ministry echoed Lu's tone in a separate statement on Saturday, stressing that the military will step up vigilance against air and sea patrols to defend national and regional peace and stability.

Adm. Harry Harris, head of U.S. Pacific Command on Oahu, said on January 12 in Honolulu that "our opportunities in the Indo-Pacific are abundant, but the path is burdened by several considerable challenges, including China, ISIS, and North Korea".

The US warship recently entered the US Navy's 7th Fleet area of operations, where the ship is on an "independent deployment", according to a statement released earlier this month on the US Navy's website.

But Glaser said she did not expect the latest patrol by the U.S.to embolden China to make a stronger push - including by reclaiming land - to take over Scarborough Shoal, which experts say Beijing has long coveted.

The South China Sea has crucial shipping lanes, rich fishing grounds and potential oil, gas and other mineral deposits.

China claims virtually the entire South China Sea and has tried to fortify its foothold in recent years by transforming reefs into island outposts.

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