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China reacts to U.S. exercise in South China Sea

  • COURTESY U.S. NAVY

    The Arleigh Burke-Class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur is seen in this 2014 photo.

BEIJING » China strongly condemned the United States after a U.S. warship deliberately sailed near one of the Beijing-controlled islands in the hotly contested South China Sea to exercise freedom of navigation and challenge China’s vast territorial claims.

The missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the Paracel chain “to challenge excessive maritime claims of parties that claim the Paracel Islands,” without notifying the three claimants beforehand, Defense Department spokesman Mark Wright said Saturday in Washington..

China, Taiwan and Vietnam have overlapping claims in the Paracels and require prior notice from ships transiting what they consider their territorial waters. The latest operation was particularly aimed at China, which has increased tensions with the U.S. and its Southeast Asian neighbors by embarking on massive construction of man-made islands and airstrips in contested areas.

In October, another U.S. warship sailed in the nearby Spratly Islands near Subi Reef, where China has built one of seven artificial islands.

Wright said the attempts to restrict navigational rights by requiring prior notice are inconsistent with international law. U.S. officials said that such ship movements would be regular in the future.

China responded swiftly. Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun issued a statement saying the U.S. action “severely violated Chinese law, sabotaged the peace, security and good order of the waters, and undermined the region’ s peace and stability,” according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

According to Yang, Chinese troops on the island and navy vessels and warplanes took actions immediately, identified the U.S. warship and “warned and expelled it swiftly.”

He said that the U.S. operation was “very unprofessional and irresponsible for the safety of the troops of both sides, and may cause extremely dangerous consequences.” Chinese armed forces will take whatever measures “necessary to safeguard China’s sovereignty and security, no matter what provocations the U.S. side may take,” Yang said.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said separately that the Chinese side conducted surveillance and “vocal warnings to the U.S. warship.”

China claims almost the entire South China Sea and its islands, reefs and atolls on historic grounds. The area has some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, and U.S. officials say ensuring freedom of navigation is in U.S. national interests, while not taking sides in the territorial disputes.

China seized the unpopulated Triton Island, an area of 0.46 sq. miles, from former South Vietnam in 1974. In May 2014, China parked a huge oil drilling platform off the Vietnamese coast in the area, prompting Vietnam to sent fishing boats and coast guard vessels to harass the rig and nearby Chinese vessels. Skirmishes led to collisions and the capsizing of at least one Vietnamese boat.

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  • Why is Obama taunting China when we owe them so much money. Maybe China will sail thru the Hawaii Islands in exchange. Caldwell can sell them some of the surplus condos all over the place.

  • I have to agree that we are #1 at stirring things up wherever we go. Be it on land, on sea or in the air. We’ve managed to make a mess in the Middle East when we first stepped into Iraq and than just continued on to the rest of the surrounding countries and now we worry about ISIS and terrorism. We helped to create the entire mess when went in to train and arm these people, and now we’re looking to create another mess with China and possibly her allies. It’s seems like we’re just itching to create WW once again.

  • i support this action but how do we demonstrate freedom of navigation by sailing 12 miles from the Chicom occupied islands. Why are we not sailing right up to these islands.
    . When you give them a 12 mile border, you are inherently recognizing the Chicom claim that these islands belong to them.
    We need to be more assertive and back it up with a willingness to defend ourselves if provoked or attacked.
    I do not want to see another USS Pueblo incident, where our ship and men were left hanging in the wind and no one came to their aid.
    These exercises put our men at risk unless you have a back-up force ready and waiting to respond to any provocation by the Chicoms
    This would essentially have to be other ships standing nearby and an air umbrella of fighter aircraft. The USS Pueblo incident should have taught us that you do not
    send people out in harms way with no active plan to protect them should the need arise.

    • The Pueblo was an unarmed spy ship. An Arleigh Burke class destroyer is a different kettle of fish, armed to the teeth. And I suspect there were air assets in the neighborhood. Chinese pilots do not have our flying skills. Anyway, attacking the Wilbur wouldn’t accomplish anything for the Chinese. That is very busy and very sensitive body of water and nations can huff and puff, but if trade stops, China will suffer most. Its economy is already weaker than it has been in years, factories have closed, leaving workers angry. The Chinese are not witless enough to want to aggravate their internal discontent. Then again, there is always the possibility of human stupidity leading to bad things happening.

  • Should take those 2 junk littoral combat vessels that were towed back to the base on the East Coast, fix them, and use them to play demolition derby with the Chiinks. Just like Greenpeace does with the Japanese whaling vessels. Fun.

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