US Navy warships sail in South China Sea near contested manmade island

Frederick Owens
February 12, 2019

If the sides can not reach an agreement by March 1, when a 90-day tariffs truce ends, the Trump administration has said it will raise tariffs on US$200 billion of Chinese goods from 10 per cent to 25 per cent.

British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson confirmed in a speech Monday morning that the Royal Navy's HMS Queen Elizabeth will sail into waters that are the subject of dispute between China and other nations.

A United States official said the warships had approached the islands on Monday to counter Chinese claims of domination over the entire South China Sea.

She urged the USA to cease the "provocative actions". The ships entered the waters without China's permission, ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.The US warships sailed near the islands the same day that China resumed trade talks with Washington.

According to reports, the USS Spruance and USS Preble, both guided-missile destroyers, sailed within 22 km of the Spratly Island chain.

Freedom-of-navigation operations occur frequently, but they have not stopped China from bolstering its position militarily in the South China Sea.

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Monday's operation was carried out "to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by worldwide law", Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the US Navy's 7th Fleet, said.

The Chinese foreign ministry on Monday said the People's Liberation Army Navy sent vessels to track the United States warships sailing near the Spratlys and warned them to leave the area.

"All operations are designed in accordance with worldwide law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever global law allows". In January, the destroyer USS McCampbell sailed within 22kms of the Paracel Islands. Other regional nations-such as the Philippines and Vietnam-lay claim to part of the waterway and the US routinely pushes back against China by sending ships to patrol the sea.

During that operation, a Chinese destroyer came within 45 yards of the U.S. warship, forcing it to maneuver to avoid a collision.

The Navy sent USS Preble, left, and USS Spruance, right, near the Chinese manmade island of Mischief Reef in the South China Sea, the location of several territorial conflicts that have raised tensions in the region.

China says the construction is necessary for defence, and it was the United States that was responsible for tensions by sending warships and military planes close to islands Beijing claims.

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