An American warship appears to have gotten too close for comfort in the South China Sea, as China today accused the U.S. of trespassing on its territory there.
The USS Dewey sailed less than 12 nautical miles from Mischief Reef, of the Spratly Islands, which is claimed by Beijing, on Thursday morning local time, according to a U.S. official. The United Nations dictates that nations can establish the breadth of their territorial sea up to 12 nautical miles.
This was the first time something like has happened under President Donald Trump’s administration. Relations with China are supposedly on the rise, as the White House wants to ensure China’s cooperation on issues such as North Korea.
According to Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang, the guided-missile destroyer entered the waters “without permission from the Chinese government,” and that the ship had “trespassed in the waters near the relevant islands and reefs.”
“The relevant action taken by the U.S. vessel undermines China’s sovereignty and security interests,” Kang said during a press briefing, “and is very likely to cause unexpected sea and air accidents.
Kang also urged the U.S. to stop its “provocative actions.”
Despite counter claims from Taiwan and other southeast Asian nations, such as the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, China claims most of the South China Sea and has built reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes, according to reports, and the U.S. has challenged annexations of these islands and encouraged a resolution to the disputes.
Pentagon Spokesman Major Jamie Davis said U.S. forces operate in the South China Sea on a daily basis, and will fly and sail “whenever international law” allows, according to the report.
“We have a comprehensive Freedom of Navigation Operations program that seeks to challenge excessive maritime claims in order to preserve the rights, freedoms, and uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law,” Davis said in a statement to the Agence France-Presse (AFP).
He added that the exercises are “not about any one country, nor are they about making political statements.”
Just a week ago, the Pentagon said Chinese jets conducted an “unprofessional” intercept of a U.S. radiation sniffing plane, which China denied, according to the report.
Their Ministry of Defense said Thursday that “the close reconnaissance activities conducted by US military ships and planes towards China are the root cause of the security issues between China and the US over the sea and in the air,” the report said.