Beijing has lodged “stern representations” with the United States following a sail-by conducted by an American Navy destroyer near the disputed Paracel Island in South China Sea early this week, a Chinese official confirmed to Reuters.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement her government is demanding US to “earnestly take steps to correct its mistakes”; adding the latest provocation prompted them to scramble the warship using two fighter jets and a helicopter to drive them away as it has infringed upon China’s sovereignty.
“China will continue to take resolute measures to protect Chinese sovereign territory and maritime interests. China urges the U.S. to conscientiously respect China’s sovereign territory and security interests, conscientiously respect the efforts regional countries have made to protect peace and stability in the South China Sea, and stop these wrong actions,” said Hua.
Earlier, US defense officials confirmed to CNN the USS Chafee, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, conducted “freedom of navigation operations” (FONOPS) near Paracel Island on Tuesday but said the warship did not come within 12-nautical miles of any island in the area.
Paracel is a group of island in the South China Sea controlled by China but also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.
The officials said the latest FONOPs is part of the Washington’s effort to challenge China’s “excessive maritime claims” in the area which remains a part of international water and upon which Beijing’s claim of sovereignty the US does not recognize.