U.S. destroyer sails near China-claimed island in South China Sea

USS Chafee a US Navy destroyer which operates 100 percent on biofuel sails about 150 miles north of the island of Oahu during the RIMPAC Naval exercises off Hawaii July 18,2012. REUTERS  Hugh Gentry (UNITED STATES- Tags BUSINESS MILITARY ENERG

US Navy Destroyer Sails Near Islands Claimed by China in South China Sea

China has lodged solemn representations with the United States after a US destroyer intruded into China's territorial waters in the South China Sea on Tuesday.

The warning from Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Wednesday came a day after United States guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee sailed within 16 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands, which are claimed by Beijing, Taipei and Hanoi.

Meanwhile, in today's press briefing Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said the Chinese military deployed air and sea assets to verify the identification and drive away the U.S. warship from Paracel Islands' territorial waters.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Chafee, a guided-missile destroyer, challenged "excessive maritime claims" near the Paracel Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals over which China has territorial disputes with its neighbours. "The US vessel action violated Chinese laws and relevant global laws, undermined China's sovereignty and security interests", Hua said. She said the military verified the presence of the United States ship by sea and air and warned it off.

The US "stirs up trouble" and runs "in the opposite direction from countries in the region who aspire for stability, cooperation and development", a statement from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said at the time.

The latest sailing comes as the Trump administration is pressing China to help Washington deal with North Korea's weapons program.

But the vessel did not go within 12 nautical miles of any island, the territorial limit recognised by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, US officials said. But he said all operations are conducted in accordance with worldwide law and "demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever global law allows". The US does not take an official position on sovereignty claims, but the Navy regularly sails through the area to assert freedom of navigation.

The Paracel Islands have been controlled by China since 1974 but they are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

"China would certainly be very unhappy about this, but it would not affect any other topic in Trump's visit", Renmin University global relations specialist Shi Yinhong said.

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