CHINA CLAIMS ‘EXPELLING’ U.S. DESTROYER CLOSE TO SPRATLYS
China claimed its military has “expelled” a US Navy destroyer after it “trespassed” into Chinese territorial waters close to the Spratly Islands, in a fresh escalation of tensions between Washington and Beijing over the South China Sea, Nicola Smith reported for The Telegraph of UK.
The statement by Senior Colonel Tian Junli, spokesman for the People’s Liberation Southern Command, came shortly after the US Navy announced the USS John S McCain had asserted its “navigational rights and freedoms” in the disputed seas near the islands, “consistent with international law.”
The incident occurred as Shandong, China’s second aircraft carrier, was reported to be conducting drills in the region after sailing through the sensitive Taiwan Strait.
The Chinese government claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, directly disputing the territorial claims of reefs, islands and waters by its smaller regional neighbors.
The Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan have all laid claims to the Spratlys.
This year, Beijing has been demonstrating its assertiveness over the energy-rich waters, prompting the US to denounce its “bullying behavior” there and step up its own freedom of navigation operations.
In July, Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, declared that Washington will consider Beijing's pursuit of resources in the South China Sea as illegal. Experts say the increased military presence from both sides has raised the risk of a clash, intentional or accidental.
Last week, the US Navy broke its own record for the number of times it has sent a warship through the Taiwan Strait in a single year, with the guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin making the 13th transit through the 110-wide waterway that separates China from Taiwan.
The Chinese Communist Party claims to own Taiwan even though it has never ruled there and has threatened to invade if the island refuses to be peacefully annexed. The US has strong informal ties with Taiwan’s democratically-elected government and is its biggest arms supplier.