China accuses USA of violating maritime border in South China sea incident

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In a potential continuation of the existing tensions surrounding China's territorial claims and counter-claims made by other nations in the politically sensitive region, Beijing said it would respond sharply to the latest escalation.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Saturday protested the sailing of a US warship near a disputed shoal in the South China Sea, saying Beijing would take "necessary measures" to safeguard its sovereignty.

The USS Hopper sailed within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) of Huangyan Island, also known at Scarborough Shoal, on January 17.

News of the encounter follows yesterday's release of a new USA defence strategy that says America is facing "growing threats" from China and Russian Federation.

China Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said a Chinese missile frigate moved to identify and verify the United States vessel and warned it to leave the area.

The Chinese defense ministry pushed back on suggestions that the nation is using their presence in the South China Sea to become a military and economic competitor of the United States. The tribunal ruled previous year that the "nine-dash line" which underpins Beijing's claim to most of the South China Sea had no legal basis.

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"China respects and safeguards the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea for all countries in accordance with worldwide law, but resolutely opposes any country's move to impair China's sovereignty and security interests in the name of freedom of navigation and overflight", the spokesperson said.

FONOP is the military's term for freedom of navigation operations.

The US has long maintained it has the right to sail ships in the global waters under "freedom of navigation" but, Beijing strongly opposes these actions.

She said such operations are 'not about any one country, nor are they about making political statements'.

Beijing claims virtually the entire South China Sea, a vital shipping route and a rich fishing ground with possibly large oil and natural gas deposits. Instead they aim to "demonstrate our commitment to uphold the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under worldwide law".

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