Beijing has slammed the move as a “provocation” and an infringement of China’s sovereignty.
China’s Defense Ministry has announced that its ships and aircraft had been deployed to intercept the US ships in order to “warn them to depart,” which had entered the disputed South China Sea without permission on Sunday.
Commenting on the move, which Beijing slammed as a “provocation” and a violation of China’s sovereignty, the Chinese Defense Ministry said it was determined to strengthen its combat readiness, increase defense levels, and ensure regional stability.
At the same time, US Defense Department spokesman Christopher Logan has firmly denied Beijing’s accusations of the US violating Chinese sovereignty in the disputed South China Sea, underlining that US Navy operates in the area in accordance with international law.
“U.S. forces operate in the Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea. All operations are conducted in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” Logan said in a statement as quoted by Fox News.
According to the media reports, USS missile destroyer Higgins, and the missile cruiser USS Antietam had performed freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) near the Paracel Islands in the waters of the disputed South China Sea.
Earlier in May, the US decided to cancel its invitation to China to participate in the maritime 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) drills because of the South China Sea’s “militarization,” after several Chinese Air Force bombers landed on islands and reefs in the area.
In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that Beijing’s claims to sovereignty over South China Sea waters had no legal basis. China didn’t accept the court’s verdict, claiming that the tribunal had no jurisdiction in the case.