China on Saturday accused the US of trespassing its territorial waters and warned taking “necessary measures” to firmly safeguard its sovereignty after an American missile destroyer sailed close to a shoal in the disputed South China Sea to assert freedom of navigation.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the naval ship USS Hopper sailed within 12 nautical miles of Huangyan Dao on January 17 without China’s permission.
Huangyan Dao is also known as Scarborough Shoal, the ring of reefs which lies about 230 kilometres from the Philippines in the South China Sea (SCS), where Beijing’s claims are hotly contested by other nations.
“The naval ship USS Hopper sailed within 12 nautical miles off Huangyan Dao, widely known Scarborough Shoal on January 17 without gaining permission from the Chinese government,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement.
He said the Chinese Navy carried out identification and verification procedures in accordance with law and asked the US vessel to leave.
“What the US vessel did violated China’s sovereignty and security interests, put the safety of Chinese vessels and personnel who were in the relevant waters for official duties under grave threat, and contravened the basic norms for international relations,” Lu said.
“China is strongly dissatisfied with that and will take necessary measures to firmly safeguard its sovereignty,” he added.
China, which has been reinforcing its hold on the disputed SCS with military installations in the shoals and reclaimed islands, claims sovereignty over almost all of it.
Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims over SCS.
In a bid to question China’s claims over the area, the US has been pressing naval ships and air force planes frequently to pass through the area, through which trillions of dollars of international trade takes place to assert freedom of navigation.
Lu, in the statement, said “China has indisputable sovereignty over Huangyan Dao and the adjacent waters”.
“China always respects and safeguards the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea all countries are entitled to under the international law. But we firmly oppose any country using navigation and overflight freedom as an excuse to hurt China’s sovereignty and security interests,” he said.
“We strongly urge the US side to immediately correct its mistake and stop making such provocative moves so as to avoid undermining China-US relations and regional peace and stability,” he said.
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