China has slammed the United States for ignoring repeated warnings and allowing a US navy warship to sail close to artificial islands created by Beijing in the South China Sea.
They said the actions of the USS Lassen were a provocation which could “damage peace and stability in the region.”
Chinese authorities monitored and followed the US warship as it “illegally” entered the waters near the disputed Spratly islands.
A foreign ministry statement stressed that the passage of the American destroyer was made “despite repeated warnings” from Beijing.
Al Jazeera reports:
The warship sailed in waters surrounding at least one of the land formations claimed by China in the disputed Spratly Islands chain early on Tuesday local time, a US official told AFP news agency.
US officials told Associated Press on Monday that the White House approved the movement by the USS Lassen, a guided missile destroyer, around the Spratly Islands archipelago, a disputed group of hundreds of reefs, islets, atolls and islands in the South China.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the matter in advance of the Lassen’s movement.
A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Cmdr Bill Urban, declined to comment.
Tensions have mounted since China transformed reefs in the area – also claimed by several neighbouring countries – into small islands capable of supporting military facilities, a move the US says threatens freedom of navigation.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing was trying to verify if the US ship had entered the 12-mile zone.
“If true, we advise the US to think again and before acting, not act blindly or make trouble out of nothing,” the Foreign Ministry quoted Wang as saying.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington said the concept of freedom of navigation should not be used as excuse for muscle-flexing.
Embassy spokesman Zhu Haiquan told Reuters that the United States should “refrain from saying or doing anything provocative and act responsibly in maintaining regional peace and stability”.