U.S. warships 'seriously infringed' on China - Beijing military chiefs

Posted May 29, 2018

The Higgins guided-missile destroyer and the Antietam, a guided-missile cruiser, carried out manoeuvering operations near Tree, Lincoln, Triton and Woody islands in the Paracels, one of the officials said.

The objective of their sail-by was a speck of land called "Woody Island", where China has developed airstrips and port facilities in recent years as part of a broader strategy of establishing bases in these islands to demonstrate and exercise its political claims.

Beijing says aircraft carriers are needed to protect its coastline and trade routes, although they are also seen as backing up Beijing's claims to self-governing Taiwan and the South China Sea. Earlier in the month, the United States also formally protested the deployment of missiles and radar equipment on three artificial islands China has built in the Spratly Islands.

The operation was conducted just over a week after Beijing flew nuclear-capable bombers to a disputed island in a bold powerplay to show its military might and boost its territorial claims in the area.

Critics of the operations, known as a "freedom of navigation", have said that they have little impact on Chinese behaviour and are largely symbolic.

A spokesman for the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet, Cmdr.

The foreign ministry issued a statement expressing "resolute opposition" to the U.S. sail-by of the territory in the disputed Paracel Island chain on Sunday.

China's military, he said, would be "firm and unwavering in its determination to strengthen sea and air operational preparedness construction" on the islands.

China claims the passage within the country's territory represents a violation under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

'China's continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serves to raise tensions and destabilize the region, ' Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Logan said.

US freedom of navigation operations are created to protest maritime claims that are excessive under worldwide law.

State-run news agency Xinhua said the two vessels were "expelled" from the waters.