12 August, 2017
Under the pretext of "navigation freedom", the USS John S. McCain destroyer traveled to the waters close to the reefs and islets of China's Nansha Islands on Thursday without China's approval, the ministry said in a statement posted on its website late Thursday.
"Such a move severely undermines China's sovereignty and security, and severely endangers the safety of frontline personnel of both sides", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said in a statement.
The Foreign Ministry pointed out that that the so-called U.S. "freedom of navigation" mission was carried out without authorization from Beijing, with has "indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands (Spratley) and its surrounding waters".
The USS John S McCain destroyer sailed within six nautical miles of Mischief Reef an artificial island built by China on Thrusday as part of a "freedom of navigation" operation, a US official said.
China's defence ministry said two Chinese warships "jumped into action" and warned the USA ship to leave, labelling the move a "provocation" that seriously harms mutual trust.
"As you all know, USA forces will operate in the Asia-Pacific region".
"All operations are conducted in accordance with global law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever worldwide law allows", she said.
It was the third mission aimed at challenging China's claim on the territory under the Trump administration.
Beijing claims nearly the entirety of the South China Sea, has deployed naval units and has reclaimed land from the sea to expand its presence, sparking protests from its neighbours. Its sweeping claims overlap with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei all ASEAN members as well as Taiwan.
The U.S.is reportedly concerned that China's construction of artificial islands and build-up of military facilities in the South China Sea are meant to restrict nautical movement in the area.
The new development comes amid Washington's attempts to get Beijing on board for more worldwide pressure on North Korea over its development of nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles. "We told them we are a U.S. (ship) conducting routine operations in worldwide waters".
Beijing has also urged Washington to respect "the joint efforts of the regional countries to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea".
"The Spratly Islands consist of more than 100 small islands or reefs surrounded by rich fishing grounds - and potentially by gas and oil deposits", the CIA World Factbook said.
Geng reiterated that the U.S. provocation would force China to take further measures to strengthen homeland defense capacity.
"China urges the U.S. to earnestly respect Chinese sovereignty and security interests as well as the joint effort by countries in the region to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea", the ministry said.