Beijing — A U.S. warship on Sunday sailed close to a disputed island in the South China Sea claimed by China, prompting an angry response from Beijing which described the action as a “serious provocation.”
The guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem came within 12 miles of an island in the Paracel Archipelago which is claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam, CNN reported.
The ship was part of a U.S. Navy “freedom of navigation exercise,” the news network added.
The operation “infringed upon China’s sovereignty, disrupted peace, security and order of the relevant waters and put in jeopardy the facilities and personnel on the Chinese islands, and thus constitutes a serious political and military provocation,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang.
“The Chinese side will continue to take all necessary means to defend national sovereignty and security,” Lu added.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a key shipping lane that is believed to be rich in resources. An international court last year invalidated China’s claims to the region in a case filed by the Philippines, but Beijing does not recognize the ruling.
This is the second “freedom of navigation operation” that has taken place during Donald Trump’s presidency.
The exercises were done routinely under the Obama administration, however Trump has been mostly silent on the South China Sea issue while he turned to China for help in reining in the nuclear threat from North Korea.