USA destroyer sent to Chinese waters as North Korea crisis deepens

2011 the USS John S. Mc Cain destroyer sails off the coast of Vietnam

It said China's artificial land bridge connecting North Island with neighboring Middle Island was washed out by Typhoon Sarika in October 2016.

China has long protested these operations.

Interaction between the Chinese and U.S. ships was "safe and professional", according to an unnamed USA official.

The US, Australia and Japan had issued a statement at ASEAN opposing "coercive unilateral action" and any militarisation of the islands - after Vietnam failed in a push to have the code of conduct be legally binding.

"The South China Sea doesn't only include the Spratly Islands, and for Vietnam, developments on the disputed Paracels are just as destabilising".

China and the USA maintain different interpretations on global law as applied to the operation of warships, and Beijing has ignored a Hague arbitration court's ruling that invalidated much of its South China Sea claim.

What is known as America's Freedom of Navigation program has been seen in China as an infringement on its "lawful" claims over the South and East China Seas, two of the world's most important waterways.

It's the third mission to challenge China's claim on the territory under the Trump administration.

But Beijing's reaction to the latest American naval operation has underscored that China has its own geopolitical sore points with the White House, including weapons sales to Taiwan and the repeated freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.

The reef is some 150 miles from Palawan, the nearest major Philippine island, and more than 650 miles southeast of Hainan, a Chinese island-province that reaches into the South China Sea.

China has been especially assertive in the area recently, and has not shied away from harsh diplomatic confrontation with the other claimants.

China claims almost all of the sea, through which $5 trillion in annual shipping trade passes and which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits.




"Vietnam is unlikely to take a role as active as Aquino", Xue said, referring to former Philippine president Benigno Aquino who took the South China Sea case to an worldwide tribunal. The ruling was adamantly rejected by the Chinese government.

The significance of the distance of 12 nautical miles derives from the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which generally grants coastal states jurisdiction over seas within 12 nautical miles of the coast. It was not immediately clear if the Chinese demanded the US destroyer leave as they have done in the past.

Anonymous US officials told Reuters that the destroyer USS John S. McCain sailed close to the Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, where China has a territorial dispute with its neighbours.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the U.S. official told AFP a Chinese frigate sent radio warnings at least 10 times to the USS McCain.

"They called and said 'Please turn around, you are in our waters, '" he said.

The official said the interactions were all "safe and professional", with the operation lasting about six hours.

But the U.S. has snubbed that claim by sailing ships through the huge waterway.

"Such a move severely undermines China's sovereignty and security, and severely endangers the safety of frontline personnel of both sides", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said in a statement. "All operations are conducted in accordance with worldwide law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever global law allows".

China's military has warned freedom of navigation patrols by the United States in the South China Sea will cause it to boost Chinese defence capacity in the disputed waters.

China's claims in the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes each year are contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. Cayetano said in a press briefing after the conclusion of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting.

"Australia, which failed to find a balance between its economic dependence on China and security dependence on the United States, is also making trouble in the South China Sea", Jia Xiudong, a research fellow at China Institute of International Studies, wrote.

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