China expressed its “strong dissatisfaction” with the U.S. over the Navy’s latest freedom of navigation operation in which a warship sailed past one of China’s man-made islands in the strategic South China Sea.
A leading U.S. think tank, meanwhile, released a new report documenting what it said was continuing reclamation work on Chinese-controlled islands in the area despite a recent claim by China’s foreign minister that such work had stopped two years ago.
In a statement late Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang called the U.S. Navy’s action a “provocation” that “severely undermines China’s sovereignty and security, and severely endangers the safety of frontline personnel of both sides.”
China, which claims virtually the entire South China Sea, routinely protests such operations, which President Donald Trump’s administration has continued partly to reassure allies locked in territorial disputes with Beijing.
“China has the firm determination to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maritime interests,” Geng said. The U.S. move will “compel China to take measures to further raise its capacity to defend national territory,” he said.
A U.S. Navy official told The Associated Press that the destroyer USS John S. McCain sailed past Mischief Reef on Thursday. U.S. officials say the military will continue to sail, fly and operate wherever permitted by international law.
Geng said the Chinese navy “identified the U.S. warship, warned and expelled it.”
China and the U.S. maintain different interpretations on international 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.
Although the Philippines has taken steps to improve ties with China under its current leader, Rodrigo Duterte, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Friday “we don’t find (the sail-by) objectionable.”
Tensions in the region escalated after China began to turn…