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China protests USA 'freedom of navigation'
11 August 2017, 10:15 | Silvia Roy
US warship challenges China's claims in South China Sea
The United States and its regional allies have accused Beijing of inflaming tensions in the South China Sea by expanding islands and reefs into military installations, refusing multilateral negotiations over overlapping territorial claims and spurning a ruling previous year from an global tribunal that rejected the legality of China's claims to much of the sea. The vessel passed the island at a distance of 12 miles as part of what the United States authorities called "freedom of navigation operation".
Geng added the Chinese Navy identified the USA warship, warned and expelled it. It was not immediately clear if the Chinese demanded the US destroyer leave as they have done in the past.
Beijing also said it was "very displeased" with the warship's actions and urged the United States to respect to Chinese sovereignty and security.
China "scored a coup" during ASEAN's latest security summit when ASEAN countries issued a watered-down statement on the South China Sea disputes.
The United States has criticised China's construction of islands and build-up of military facilities in the sea, and is concerned they could be used to restrict free nautical movement.
They sought compliance with an arbitration ruling previous year that invalidated China's claims in the South China Sea.
The U.S. Defense Department says FONOPs represent "a challenge to excessive maritime claims".
The Trump administration is dependent on Beijing to rein in the belligerent North Korea and have been pressing China to exert more economic and diplomatic pressure on the Kim Jong-un regime to prevent tensions from escalating further in the Korean peninsula.
USNI News notes this is the third patrol under the schedule presented to President Trump by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and U.S. Pacific Command.
Attracted by the strategic military location and the prospect of oil, China, Taiwan, Brunei, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam have all laid territorial claim to the Spratly's and have occupied several islands.
China has been especially assertive in the area recently, and has not shied away from harsh diplomatic confrontation with the other claimants.
Now it seems China's patience with the territorial row is running out.
In July 2016, in a case brought by the Philippines, an arbitral tribunal in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague found no legal basis for China's claim of "historic rights" within the Nine-Dash Line in the South China Sea.
The US does not recognise China's claims to the area.
The collection of islands, which is spread over a period of more than 150,000 square miles, is seen as of great military and territorial significance.
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