Beijing slams U.S. 'freedom of navigation' exercises in South China Sea

USS John S Mc Cain raised China's ire by sailing close to one of its artificial islands

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said the USS Naval ship John S. McCain illegally entered the waters near the Meiji Reef Islands without permission of the Chinese government.

The operation occurred at an awkward and tense moment, amid the war of words between the United States and North Korea.

It was not immediately clear if the Chinese demanded the USA destroyer leave as they have done in the past.

Tensions escalated a few years ago when China began to build seven reefs, including Mischief, into islands, including three with runways, which the USA and China's neighbors fear could be used to project Beijing's military might and potentially obstruct freedom of navigation.

Beijing claims nearly the entirety of the South China Sea, has deployed naval units and has reclaimed land from the sea to expand its presence, sparking protests from its neighbours.

China has blasted the US Navy for sending yet another warship close to Chinese-held territories in the South China Sea, saying it amounted to a breach of China's sovereignty. It's true in the South China Sea.

The United States has said that it would like to see more worldwide participation in freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.

United States national security advisor Lt Gen H R McMaster had said recently that "China is not doing enough on North Korea which continues to violate worldwide norms by conducting missile tests".

"They happen off the coast of Canada" and "in the waters off shore of our major allies, friends, partners all around the world", she said.

CNMI governor backs Trump's stance on North Korea
The same system is now set up in Guam, a US territory in the South Pacific that has emerged as a potential target for Kim. Missile defense is an attractive but tricky strategy in dealing with missile threats.

The US administration has been prodding China to work with North Korea through its diplomatic channels to tone down Kim's nuclear ambitions but Pentagon officials, including President Trump have felt increasingly frustrated with Chinese officials.

Although China opposes inclusion of the sea disputes in worldwide conferences, partly to prevent the U.S. and other Western governments from intervening, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Japan's new top diplomat, Taro Kono, expressed concern over aggressive actions in the waters.

China's sovereignty claim over the sea has been challenged by five regional nations - Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.

It is the third time this year that United States ships traveled within 12 nautical miles of land claimed by China, the report said.

The Defense Ministry said USA and Chinese military relations are generally "stable" but said such actions foster mistrust between the nations.

The Guardian reported Friday a USA official said the Chinese frigate sent radio warning at least 10 times to the USS McCain.

"The US provocation also forced the Chinese side to take measures to further enhance the national defense capability", it added.

Chinese authorities claim 90 percent of the area and have repeatedly said that the country's activities in the region are China's sovereign right.

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