US Missile Destroyer Puts China’s Sea Claims To The Test

Courtesy Diana Quinlan/U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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A U.S. guided-missile destroyer conducted a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea Friday, Reuters reports.

The USS Decatur sailed past Woody and Triton Island in the Paracels, territories claimed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam. The ship passed through waters claimed by China; however, it did not come within 12 nautical miles of any territorial holding.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the operations “extremely irresponsible provocations.”

“The U.S. warship’s entry into Chinese territorial waters without Chinese approval or authorization is a serious violation of Chinese sovereignty and security interests, as well as a serious violation of Chinese laws and international law. The operations undermine peace, security, and order. We firmly oppose and condemn U.S. actions,” the foreign ministry said.

Chinese ships reportedly warned the U.S. to leave.

Cmdr. Gary Ross, Pentagon spokesman, said that the USS Decatur conducted “in a routine, lawful manner without ship escorts and without incident.”

U.S. defense officials say that three Chinese ships trailed the USS Decatur without altercations or unpleasant interactions.

“This operation demonstrated that coastal states may not unlawfully restrict the navigation rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea that the United States and all states are entitled to exercise under international law,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

The U.S. has conducted four freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea since last October. Each time, Beijing has expressed outrage over U.S. actions.

“The U.S. Navy will continue to conduct routine and lawful operations around the world, including in the South China Sea, in order to protect the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of sea and airspace guaranteed to all. This will not change,” Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson said in July.

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