Recent developments surrounding the South China Sea

Recent developments surrounding the South China Sea

Recent developments surrounding the South China Sea

The US officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Higgins guided-missile destroyer and the Antietam, a guided-missile cruiser, came within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals over which China has territorial disputes with its neighbours.

They carried out maneuvering-operations near Tree, Triton and Woody islands.

The ministry said the course plotted by the vessels had "seriously infringed upon Chinese sovereignty" and "contravened Chinese and relevant global law", as they had entered territorial waters without permission.

Beijing says aircraft carriers are needed to protect its coastline and trade routes, although they are also seen as backing up Beijing's claims to self-governing Taiwan and the South China Sea.

The U.S. warships were carrying out "freedom of navigation" operations, also called FONOPS, which the Navy says are a means to challenge excessive maritime claims and uphold rights to use of the sea under worldwide law.

It added that its presence in the South China Sea - which is disputed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam - was legitimate, and accused the USA of holding Cold War-style suspicions.

The U.S. Department of Defense cited China's moves to militarize the Spratly Islands, where it has constructed seven artificial islands, as a reason for the disinvitation.

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Critics of the operations, known as a "freedom of navigation", have said that they have little impact on Chinese behaviour and are largely symbolic.

U.S. officials accused Beijing of breaking a promise the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, made in 2015 when he said China did not intend to militarise the disputed territories.

'We conduct routine and regular Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs), as we have done in the past and will continue to do in the future, ' US Pacific Fleet said in a statement.

In another statement by China's Foreign Ministry, it told the United States to stop such military exercises.

The U.S. ships were performing so-called "freedom of navigation operations" meant to exercise the U.S. right to navigate the waters under worldwide law, as China's claims over the South China Sea aren't internationally recognized.

"China's continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serve to raise tensions and destabilize the region", a Pentagon spokesman, Marine Lt. Col. Christopher Logan, said. The operations, which the Obama administration curtailed somewhat but which picked up again under US President Donald Trump, are meant to exercise what the United States says are its rights under worldwide law.

State-run news agency Xinhua said the two vessels were "expelled" from the waters.

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