China military says it ‘drove away’ US destroyer in South China Sea

BEIJING: Beijing’s military on Friday said it had tailed and issued a warning to a US Navy ship in the disputed South China Sea, just days after the same vessel sparked China’s ire by sailing through the Taiwan Strait.
Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea despite an international ruling that its assertion has no legal basis. It deploys hundreds of coast guard, navy and other vessels to patrol and militarise the waters.
And on Friday, military spokesman Tian Junli said China had “organised naval and air forces to tail and monitor” the American guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey.
Those forces “issued a warning to drive it away”, he added, after the ship “illegally intruded into China’s territorial waters near the Xisha Islands without approval from the Chinese government”, Tian said, referring to the Paracel Islands by their Chinese name.
“The actions by the United States seriously violate China’s sovereignty and security,” he added.
In a statement Friday, the US Navy confirmed its ship had “asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the South China Sea near the Paracel Islands”.
“At the conclusion of the operation, USS Halsey exited the excessive claim and continued operations in the South China Sea,” it added.
“Unlawful and sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea pose a serious threat to the freedom of the seas,” the statement said.
Maritime confrontations between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea have raised fears of a wider conflict that could involve the United States and other allies.
This week, US and Philippine forces carried out war games around 400 kilometres (250 miles) south of Taiwan.
China in response warned “any military exercise should not be targeted at or harm the interests of third parties”.
Friday’s naval spat between US and Chinese forces came just days after the USS Halsey sailed through the Taiwan Strait, a narrow 180-kilometre body of water separating the island from China.
Chinese naval colonel Li Xi called the US warship passage “public hype”.
He added in a statement late on Wednesday that the Eastern Theatre Command had also organised naval and air forces “to monitor the passage of the US ship through the entire process”.
China claims Taiwan as part of its territory and has said it will not rule out using force to bring the island under Beijing’s control.
Taiwanese defence and coast guard officials on Thursday reported dozens of Chinese warplanes and ships had been detected around the island.


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