China chides US over warship in S. China Sea

Guided missile destroyer USS Dewey seen in the South China Sea on May 6. The warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, in the Spratly Islands, as part of an operation under President Donald Trump, sparking ire from the Chinese. This i
Guided missile destroyer USS Dewey seen in the South China Sea on May 6. The warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, in the Spratly Islands, as part of an operation under President Donald Trump, sparking ire from the Chinese. This is the first such patrol through the highly controversial area under the Trump administration.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

It says US operation is damaging to the improving situation and not conducive to peace

BEIJING • China warned yesterday that the United States risked severely disrupting negotiations between stakeholders in the South China Sea after a US Navy warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China in the disputed waters.

Speaking at a regular news briefing in Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China urged the US to correct its mistake and refrain from further patrols.

"Such moves undermine China's sovereignty and security, and are very likely to cause unexpected air and sea accidents," he said.

US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the USS Dewey passed close to the Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands yesterday morning. It was the first such challenge to Beijing in the strategic waterway since US President Donald Trump took office.

Separately, a Chinese defence ministry spokesman said Chinese warships had warned the US vessel to leave the area. At a monthly news briefing in Beijing, spokesman Ren Guoqiang said China had lodged "stern representations" with the US over the patrol. "The US side's errant ways have caused damage to the improving situation in the South China Sea, and are not conducive to peace and stability," he said.

The US patrol marked the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing's efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, and comes as Mr Trump is seeking China's cooperation to rein in ally North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes.

The US patrol marked the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing's efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, and comes as Mr Trump is seeking China's cooperation to rein in ally North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes.

Under the previous US administration, the navy conducted several such voyages through the South China Sea. The last operation in October was approved by then President Barack Obama.

The patrol is likely to exacerbate US-China tensions that had eased since Mr Trump hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at a summit in a Florida resort last month.

One US official said it was the first operation near a land feature that was included in a ruling last year against China by an international arbitration court in The Hague.

The court invalidated China's claim to sovereignty over large swathes of the South China Sea.

Territorial waters are generally defined by United Nations convention as extending at most 12 nautical miles from a state's coastline.

China's extensive claims to the South China Sea, which sees about US$5 trillion (S$6.9 trillion) in ship-borne trade pass every year, are challenged by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, as well as Taiwan.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2017, with the headline 'China chides US over warship in S. China Sea'. Print Edition | Subscribe