China has voiced discontent with the United States after an American warship sailed near an artificial island in the disputed South China Sea.
The USS John S McCain sailed within six nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands on Thursday as part of a “freedom of navigation” operation, which prompted the Chinese navy to warn off the US destroyer.
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Friday the operation had violated Chinese and international law, “seriously” impairing the country’s sovereignty and security as well as “endangering lives”.
Nicole Schwegman, spokeswoman for the US Pacific Fleet, said US military forces operate in the Asia Pacific region on a daily basis.
“All operations are conducted in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” she said.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a US official told AFP news agency a Chinese frigate sent radio warnings at least 10 times to the USS McCain.
Thursday’s freedom of navigation operation was the third of its kind carried out by the US since President Donald Trump took office in January.
The operation comes four days after the US, Australia, and Japan denounced China’s island-building and militarisation of the South China Sea on the sidelines of a security forum of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the Philippine capital, Manila.
China claims nearly all of the sea, through which $5 trillion in annual shipping trade passes and which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits.