The US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG-85) has sailed near the Paracel Islands, a disputed territory claimed by China in the South China Sea.
McCampbell performed a ‘freedom of navigation’ operation (FONOP), sailing within 12nm of the Paracel Island chain, Reuters reported.
In a statement, Pacific Fleet spokesperson Rachel McMarr told the news agency that the operation was conducted to challenge excessive maritime claims.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said that the US vessel entered China’s territorial seas without permission.
He also said that a Chinese military ship and aircraft were immediately sent to carry out ‘verification and identification on the US ship and warned it to leave’.
Lu Kang said: “The Chinese side firmly opposes the relevant action by the US side and urges the US to immediately stop such provocations. We will continue to take necessary measures to safeguard our national sovereignty and security.”
The aggressive move comes at a time when China and the US started talks to diffuse trade tensions between them.
Last month, US President Donald Trump reached an agreement for a 90-day truce in the trade war with China. The parties had agreed to resolve the differences over trade tariffs during the truce period.
Lu Kang added: “As for how this action will affect the current China-US trade talks, properly resolving all kind of issues between the two sides, including economic and trade issues, are beneficial to the two countries and the whole world.”
China claims nearly all of the strategic South China Sea. Other Asian nations, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan, also claim sovereignty over the disputed South China Sea region.