Philippines Not Concerned by US Operation Near Spratly Islands - Spokesman

John S. Mc Cain at sea

A "displeased" Beijing has slammed a US Navy destroyer's "freedom of navigation operation" near one of its artificial islands in the South China Sea, labelling the exercise a provocation.

United States officials admitted earlier that USS John S. McCain sailed in a freedom of navigation operation within 12 nautical miles of Mischief/Panganiban Reef while a US P-3 patrol plane flew overhead.

The photos released showing land reclamation in the South China Sea only refer to areas contested by China and Vietnam, the Palace said.

However, the USA officials said that the USS John S. McCain sailed past an island in the disputed Spratly chain in the South China Sea, which is the third mission under the Trump administration.

In July, a USA warship sailed near a disputed island in the South China Sea claimed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam. "This clearly shows who does not want a stable South China Sea and who is the major force driving the militarization in these waters", the ministry spokesperson said.

It continued that the U.S. sailing had violated both worldwide and Chinese law and, at the same time, had posed a threat to Beijing's security and sovereignty.

"China is very displeased with this and will bring up the issue with the U.S. side", the ministry said.

"That is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe".

Twelve nautical miles marks the territorial limits recognised internationally.

China and the United States 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.

Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Logan declined to comment on whether there had been a freedom of navigation sailing but he said the United States would continue to do such operations.

The operation comes four days after the US, Australia, and Japan denounced China's island-building and militarisation of the South China Sea on the sidelines of a security forum of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the Philippine capital, Manila. US officials say the military will continue to sail, fly and operate wherever permitted by worldwide law.

US navy warship enters China's water.

Experts and officials have criticized former President Barack Obama for potentially reinforcing China's claims by sticking to innocent passage, in which a warship effectively recognised a territorial sea by crossing it speedily without stopping. An estimated $5 trillion in annual trade passes through the waterway.

The operation occurred at an awkward and tense moment, amid the war of words between the United States and North Korea. The operations are conducted in accordance with global law.



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