MANILA – Shunning Chinese claims over reclaimed islands in the South China Sea, US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen sailed on waters surrounding China’s artificial islands in the disputed Spratly Islands which drew flak from Beijing as it ‘threatened regional peace.’
“The actions of the US warship have threatened China’s sovereignty and security interest, jeopardized the safety of personnel and facilities on the reefs, and damaged regional peace and stability… The Chinese side expresses its strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.
“China will resolutely respond to any country’s deliberate provocations. We will continue to closely monitor the relevant seas and airspace, and take all necessary steps in accordance with the need,” the statement further read.
China’s Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui urged US Ambassador Max Baucus to protest against the US move, asserting that the US patrol was ‘extremely irresponsible.’ He also expected Washington to cease actions which threatened Beijing’s security interests.
The Philippines, however, welcomed the US naval maneuver around Subi and Mischief Reefs and looked at it as a ‘balance of power’ in the region instead. Both islands have been claimed by China and the Philippines.
“I think expressing support for established norms of international behavior should not be a negative for a country… I think everybody would welcome a balance of power anywhere in the world,” President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III said.
The US will have more succeeding patrols as it challenged China’s territorial claims in the contested waters. The warships may be accompanied by a US Navy P-8A surveillance plane and a P-3 surveillance plane.
“This is something that will be a regular occurrence, not a one-off event… It’s not something that’s unique to China,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a press conference.
“You don’t need to consult with any nation when you are exercising the right of freedom of navigation in international waters,” he added, stressing that the USS Lassen sailed within 12 nautical miles of the reefs.
China then warned of a likely stronger military presence in the region as it would never allow any country to violate its sovereignty.
“China hopes to use peaceful means to resolve all the disputes, but if China has to make a response then the timing, method and tempo of the response will be made in accordance with China’s wishes and needs,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a daily briefing.
“China strongly urges the US side to consciously handle China’s serious representations, immediately correct its mistake and not take any dangerous or provocative acts that threaten China’s sovereignty and security interest,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.