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China on Thursday slammed the latest transit by a US warship through the South China Sea, calling it a “violation”, and adding that its navy “warned away” the American vessel from the contested waters.
The US navy denied the claim by China, saying the warship “USS Curtis Wilbur was not ‘expelled’ from any nation’s territory” from near the Paracel islands in the South China Sea.
“The PLA’s statement about this mission is false. USS Curtis Wilbur was not ‘expelled’ from any nation’s territory. USS Curtis Wilbur conducted this FONOP (freedom of navigation operation) in accordance with international law and then continued on to conduct normal operations in international waters. The operation reflects our commitment to uphold freedom of navigation and lawful uses of the sea as a principle. The United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, as USS Curtis Wilbur did here,” the US Navy’s 7th Fleet said.
China, Taiwan and Vietnam claim sovereignty over the Paracel islands, known as Xisha islands in China.
It is the second time in two days that China and the US have sparred over the passage of the same warship, which sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait, which separates the self-ruled Island from China on Wednesday.
The Chinese foreign ministry said it warned the US over its “provocations” in the disputed South China Sea. “China urges the US to stop infringements and provocations,” ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian said on Thursday.
Zhao’s remarks came after the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said it “warned away” the American warship, the USS Curtis Wilbur, after it allegedly “broke into China’s Xisha territorial waters”.
The Southern Theatre Command of the PLA warned the US destroyer that “its behaviour severely violated China’s sovereignty and security and undermined South China Sea’s peace and stability”.
“China will continue to take necessary measures to safeguard its national sovereignty and security,” Zhao said.
China claims nearly the entire South China Sea but that claim is disputed by several maritime neighbours including Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia besides Vietnam and Taiwan (which China says is a breakaway region).