11 August, 2017
Thursday's operation came as U.S. President Donald Trump seeks Chinese cooperation in reining in North Korea's missile and nuclear programs, and could complicate efforts to work together toward that end. Or at least it was theoretically the third patrol, since the Pentagon has been rather coy about confirming it happened, and the Chinese have forgone their customary complaints.
A "displeased" Beijing has slammed a US Navy destroyer's "freedom of navigation operation" near one of its artificial islands in the South China Sea, labelling the exercise a provocation.
"China is resolutely opposed to this kind of show of force and pushing of regional militarization by the USA that may easily cause an unexpected incident at sea or in the air", China's Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Japan's Defense White Paper reads that Beijing has been trying to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas based on its own claims, and this has become a common concern for the region and the whole world.
China's Foreign Ministry has once again protests the United States naval visits in what it claims are its own territorial waters.
Although China opposes inclusion of the sea disputes in global conferences, partly to prevent the U.S. and other Western governments from intervening, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Japan's new top diplomat, Taro Kono, expressed concern over aggressive actions in the waters.
Tensions escalated a few years ago when China began to build seven reefs, including Mischief, into islands, including three with runways, which the USA and China's neighbors fear could be used to project Beijing's military might and potentially obstruct freedom of navigation.
Twelve nautical miles marks the territorial limits recognised internationally.
It claims as its border in the South China Sea the so called Nine-Dash Line (also referred to as the Ten-Dash Line or the Eleven-Dash Line), a demarcation line, with the claimed territories including the Paracel Islands, the Spratly Islands, the Scarborough Shoal, the Pratas Islands, and the Macclesfield Bank, among others. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims.
"We are continuing regular FONOPs, as we have routinely done in the past and will continue to do in the future", he added. Neither China's defence ministry nor its foreign ministry immediately responded to a request for comment from Reuters.
A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Geng Shuang, said in a statement on its website late Thursday that the passage by the John S. McCain violated Chinese and global law and "did serious harm to Chinese sovereignty and security". USA officials say the military will continue to sail, fly and operate wherever permitted by worldwide law.
It adds that on Sunday, China scored a coup when ASEAN ministers issued a diluted statement on the dispute and agreed to its terms on talks at the Manila meeting.
"It is clear who is not willing to see stability in the South China Sea and who is the major factor pushing for militarisation in the South China Sea", the spokesperson said.
Geng reiterated that the U.S. provocation would force China to take further measures to strengthen homeland defense capacity.