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Published: Mon, January 22, 2018
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

China rebukes U.S. military for alleged close encounter in South China Sea

China rebukes U.S. military for alleged close encounter in South China Sea

The US vessel "violated China's sovereignty and security interests", and put the safety of nearby Chinese vessels "under grave threat", foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said.

"The Chinese navy carried out identification and verification procedures in accordance with the law and warned the USA vessel to leave", Lu said.

Earlier this month, Brian Hook, a senior Asia policy adviser to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, said the US will oppose China's "provocative militarization of the South China Sea" and charged the country with "pushing around smaller states in ways that put a strain on the global system".

Greg Poling, a South China Sea expert at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, said the Pentagon appeared determined to keep up regular freedom of navigation patrols in the sea, with one every six weeks or so, in spite of Chinese objections. Chinese actions such as warnings to ships and aircraft to keep away from Scarborough Shoal, beyond the 12 nautical mile limit, (will) likely continue.

"We do not wish to be part of a US-China intramural".

Adm. Harry Harris, head of U.S. Pacific Command on Oahu, said on January 12 in Honolulu that "our opportunities in the Indo-Pacific are abundant, but the path is burdened by several considerable challenges, including China, ISIS, and North Korea".

The U.S. also opposes China's construction of new military islets in the South China Sea, saying they could be used to restrict global free trade.

In a separate statement on Saturday, China's defence ministry said the repeated dispatch of United States warships to the region was "undermining regional peace and stability" and hurting bilateral relations.

The United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines on July 2016, declaring the Scarborough Shoal common fishing ground for the two countries.

Known by the Chinese as Huangyan Island, the ring of reefs lies about 120 miles off the Philippine coast and some 370 miles from China.

China says it wants to settle any territorial disputes over the South China Sea through bilateral negotiations.

While Beijing and Manila have a long history of maritime squabbles over sovereignty in the South China Sea, especially over the tiny shoal, those tensions have eased under the Philippine's China-friendly leader Rodrigo Duterte.

The US warship recently entered the US Navy's 7th Fleet area of operations, where the ship is on an "independent deployment", according to a statement released earlier this month on the US Navy's website. The shoal is also claimed by Taiwan.

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