US sails warship near disputed islands in South China Sea
The United States Navy has sailed a warship within 12 nautical miles of two disputed islands in the South China Sea that China claims sovereignty over.
A spokesperson for the US 7th Fleet, Reann Mommsen, said in a statement on Wednesday that the guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer had sailed within 12 nautical miles of Yongshu Reef and Meiji Reef “in order to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law.”
Following the operation, spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army Southern Theater Command Li Huamin said the US was engaged in “navigational bullying that... severely harms peace and stability in the South China Sea.”
China’s state-run paper The Global Times also quoted Chinese analysts as saying that Washington was intent on ramping up tensions.
“As the US continues to send warships into the South China Sea, Washington has become the main villain” in the region, Zhang Junshe, a senior research fellow at the People’s Liberation Army Naval Military Studies Research Institute, was quoted as saying.
The Global Times report followed strong language by Washington earlier in the week on Chinese actions in the South China Sea. On Monday, the Pentagon issued a statement saying that China had “resumed its coercive interference in Vietnam’s longstanding oil and gas activities in the South China Sea.”
Separately on Wednesday, China also reportedly denied a US navy warship entry to its port city of Qingdao. Earlier this month, Beijing had denied two US Navy ships entry to Hong Kong.