Beijing protests United States warship operation in South China Sea

Beijing protests United States warship operation in South China Sea

US warships on Sunday cruised by two disputed islands in the South China Sea in a planned exercise, Reuters reported.

Reuters first reported that the USS Higgins and the USS Antietam ventured within 12 miles of the Paracel Islands in a demonstration the Pentagon calls a "freedom of navigation operation" or FONOP.

Several US officials who declined to be named said the two US warships came within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands, maneuvering near Tree, Lincoln, Triton and Woody islands in the operations.

The move "contravened Chinese and relevant global law, seriously infringed upon Chinese sovereignty (and) harmed strategic mutual trust between the two militaries", it said.

China's Defence Ministry expressed its anger, saying it had sent ships and aircraft to warn the USA warships to leave, saying they had entered the country's territorial waters without permission.

China's foreign minister said China had a right to take whatever measures it deemed fit on its island holdings, and the defence ministry criticized the USA move as "unconstructive", saying it would do nothing to change China's resolve to "play a role in maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region".

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano provided on Monday more details of what President Rodrigo Duterte's administration has been doing to defend the country's sovereignty in the disputed region amid criticism that it has been far too soft on China.

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But the Pentagon has also said it would like to see more worldwide participation in freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea - likely as a show of force against China's unabashed buildup in the region.

The area is among a string of islets, reefs and shoals over which China has territorial disputes with its neighbors.

The statement added that sucgh routine and regular operations "are not about one country, nor are they about making political statements".

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have conflicting claims in the area.

Columnist Federico Pascual Jr. said, "A confident China has stepped up its setting up of military installations on artificial islands built in the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone with Duterte looking the other way". RIMPAC is the world's largest maritime military exercise and is held bi-annually in Hawaii, usually in June and July.

'We have disinvited the PLA Navy from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific Exercise. Duterte has repeatedly said the country can not afford to go to war against China, but has promised to bring up the arbitral ruling with the Asian giant during his term.

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