US Warship Sails Near Man-Made Chinese Island in South China Sea

Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Philippines Alan Peter Cayetano makes opening the speech of the 50th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Foreign Ministers Meeting in Manila Philippines

Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Philippines Alan Peter Cayetano makes opening the speech of the 50th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Foreign Ministers Meeting in Manila Philippines

A U.S. warship sailed close to a Chinese man-made island in the disputed South China Sea in an operation that challenged China's vast territorial claims in busy worldwide waters, a U.S. Navy official said Thursday.

A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Geng Shuang, said in a statement on its website late Thursday that the passage by the John S. McCain violated Chinese and global law and "did serious harm to Chinese sovereignty and security".

Anonymous U.S. officials told Reuters the John S. McCain passed through a string of islets, reefs, and shoals in territory claimed by China before approaching Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands.

Attracted by the strategic military location and the prospect of oil, China, Taiwan, Brunei, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam have all laid territorial claim to the Spratly's and have occupied several islands.

China reiterated that the US provocation will force PLA to take further measures to strengthen homeland defense capacity.

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"The US is the trouble maker in the South China Sea and has undermined regional stability", declared Zhang Junshe of the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute. The island itself is claimed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

Since October 2015, under the Obama Administration, US ships have been patrolling near the artificial islands built by China in the South China Sea to demonstrate that they are located in worldwide waters, not in Chinese waters - therefore angering Beijing.

In July, the USS Stethem, a guided-missile destroyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the South China Sea for the second "fonop".

Experts and officials have criticised President Barack Obama for potentially reinforcing China's claims by sticking to innocent passage, in which a warship effectively recognised a territorial sea by crossing it speedily without stopping.

Twelve nautical miles marks the territorial limits recognised internationally.

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Speaking on condition of anonymity, a United States official told AFP news agency a Chinese frigate sent radio warnings at least 10 times to the USS McCain. Geng reiterated the Chinese government's willingness to safeguard national sovereignty and its maritime rights and interests.

Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Logan declined to comment on whether there had been a freedom of navigation sailing but he said the United States would continue to do such operations. USA officials say the military will continue to sail, fly and operate wherever permitted by worldwide law.

He said the concerns could then be discussed in the future meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) if China indeed proceeds with land reclamation and militarization.

Geng reiterated that the U.S. provocation would force China to take further measures to strengthen homeland defense capacity.

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