Chinese defence ministry slams 'provocation' by United States warships in South China Sea

The USS Antietam was one of the ships to take part in the operation. File pic

Destroyers USS Higgins and the USS Antietam cruiser came near to the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.

The US military vessels carried out manoeuvring operations near Tree, Lincoln, Triton and Woody islands in the Paracels, one of the officials said.

Trump also escalated tensions with North Korea after he called off a planned nuclear disarmament summit with Kim Jong Un after the communist leader insulted VP Mike Pence.

The latest clash comes amid an ongoing fued between the two powers over the the disputed South China Sea.

For years, the United States military has insisted that its operations are carried out throughout the world, including in areas claimed by their allies, and that they are separate from political considerations.

"Chinese military took immediate actions by dispatching naval ships and aircrafts to conduct legal identification and verification of the United States warships and warn them off", Wu Qian, defense ministry spokesman, said.

USS Antietam and the Higgins 'seriously infringed' Chinese sovereignty. File pic
Image USS Antietam and the Higgins 'seriously infringed' Chinese sovereignty. File pic

Citing Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian, the statement said the USA warships "undermined strategic mutual trust between the two militaries and damaged peace, security and good order in relevant waters". Beijing has been redeploying significant military forces to the region, including bombers, surface-to-air and anti-ship cruise missiles.

"We conduct routine and regular freedom of navigation operations, as we have done in the past and will continue to do so in the future", the US Pacific Fleet said in a statement.

China has urged Washington not to "hype up the so-called militarisation of the South China Sea".

'China will continue to take all necessary measures to defend the country's sovereignty and security, ' it added, without elaborating.

The resource-rich South China Sea is the subject of conflicting claims by a number of countries, including China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.

Beijing claims all its military forces in the South China Sea are purely defensive.


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