Beijing, Aug 28 (efe-epa).- The Chinese Army (PLA) said Friday that it had expelled United States destroyer USS Mustin from waters near the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.
According to Colonel Li Huamin, spokesman for the Southern Theater of Operations Command, “yesterday, Thursday, China sent naval and air forces to track, identify and warn the US warship to leave after entering territorial waters” that the country considers as being under its sovereignty.
The spokesman – quoted today by state newspaper Global Times – added that “the US ignores the rules of international law and continues to provoke in the South China Sea, where it exercises its hegemony in the name of freedom of navigation.”
“These actions seriously undermine our sovereignty and interests. China has indisputable sovereignty over those islands and their adjacent waters, and our troops are always on high alert. We urge the US to cease these activities,” he said.
For its part, the US Navy published Friday on its Twitter account, photographs of the USS Mustin performing maneuvers in waters near the Paracels, but made no mention of this incident.
China’s Defense Ministry said Thursday that relations between Washington and Beijing are facing an “extremely serious” situation and that the country has adopted “energetic measures” to “firmly safeguard its sovereignty.”
“Some American politicians are doing everything possible to undermine relations between the two armies and even create military accidents and conflicts, endangering the lives of soldiers in the line of fire,” spokesman Wu Qian said.
However, Wu did not clarify whether China launched two “anti-aircraft” missiles in the South China Sea on Wednesday as a warning to the US, as had been claimed by some local media such as the South China Morning Post, which cited anonymous sources.
According to the newspaper, China would have launched the missiles in response to the sending of a US reconnaissance plane to a no-fly zone that the PLA uses to carry out maneuvers.
At a Friday press conference, Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi expressed the Japanese government’s concern over these tensions and said it is carefully reviewing the situation.
He recalled that issues related to the South China Sea “are directly linked to regional peace and stability,” and Japan opposes “any escalation in tension” in the South China Sea.
“All parties must resolve disputes peacefully” and in accordance with international law, “without coercion or intimidation,” Motegi added.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei claim parts of this strategic sea – through which 30 percent of global trade circulates and which is home to 12 percent of the world’s fishing grounds, in addition to oil and gas fields. China claims the sovereignty of those waters in their entirety. EFE-EPA