United States navy sails warship near disputed Spratly Islands in South China Sea
27 March, 2018, 19:09 | Author: Kathy Ellis
"We conduct routine and regular freedom of navigation operations, as we have done in the past and will continue to do in the future", said Lieutenant Commander Nicole Schwegman, a spokeswoman for US Pacific Fleet.
Since the People's Liberation Army Daily (the Chinese newspaper which reported the drills) did not elaborate on the specific timings of the drills or which part of the sea they would be carried out and which ships would take part in them, there is no way of telling if the drills were performed at the same time as the "freedom of navigation" operation.
According to USA official, this move was to counter Beijing's strategy of limiting navigation in the strategic waters like the South China Sea.
The South China Sea, a strategically and economically key maritime region, is disputed between numerous countries in the region.
In its own statement late Friday, China's defense ministry said two Chinese Navy ships "took immediate action to identify and verify the USA ship, and warned and dispelled it".
To reinforce its position, Beijing has reclaimed land and constructed military assets on a series of reefs in the Spratly and Paracel island chains in the South China Sea. In this photo, provided by the U.S. Navy, the Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) is on patrol on September 8, 2014.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims in the waters.
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Earlier this year, Britain said one of its warships would pass through the South China Sea to assert freedom-of-navigation rights. 'By repeatedly sending military ships into these areas without authorization, the U.S. has seriously harmed Chinese sovereignty and security, violated basic rules of global relations, and harmed regional peace and stability'.
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For many years the South China Sea has been considered an worldwide flashpoint, as the United States and China attempt to assert their influence in the region.
It said the drills are "a routine part of the navy's annual training plan" meant to boost troops' training and hone their combat capabilities. China has territorial claims to about 90 percent of the South China Sea, which has put it at odds with its neighbors.
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