The United States cruised two warships near questioned islands in the South China Sea on Monday (Sunday night, ET), a move that will undoubtedly get under the ire of Beijing.
The guided-missile destroyers USS Spruance and USS Preble cruised inside 12 nautical miles of the Spratly Islands as a feature of what the US Navy calls a “freedom of navigation operation.”
The operation was carried out “to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law,” Cmdr. Clay Doss, a representative for the US Navy’s seventh Fleet, told CNN.
“All operations are designed in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows,” Doss stated, including “that is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe.”
Monday’s operation was the second in the South China Sea announced by the US Navy this year. In January, the destroyer USS McCampbell cruised inside 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands.
Soon after that activity, China blamed the US for trespassing in its territorial waters – and said it had deployed missiles “capable of targeting medium and large ships.”
“The US action violated the Chinese laws and international laws, infringed China’s sovereignty, damaged regional peace, security, and order,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said at the time. “China will take necessary actions to protect state sovereignty.”
In late September, the USS Decatur likewise cruised inside 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson reefs in the Spratly Islands as a component of a comparable freedom of navigation operation.
Amid that activity, a Chinese destroyer came within 45 yards of the US warship, driving it to move to evade an impact. The US marked the Chinese warship’s activities hazardous and unprofessional, while Beijing said the US was threatening the safety and sovereignty of China.
The US has blamed Beijing for installing missiles and other military equipment on the debated islands.
“There’s been sort of a steady increase,” Adm. John Richardson, the US Chief of Naval Operations, told columnists not long ago when gotten some information about China’s militarization of the region.
“The weapons systems have been getting increasingly sophisticated so it’s something we’re watching very closely,” he included.
“We’ve got big interests there so we’re going to remain there,” he included, taking note of that about a third of the world’s trade passed through those waters.