U.S. Warships Defy Beijing By Sailing Through So. China Sea

DESPARDES News Monitor – Two US guided-missile destroyers passed through the South China Sea on Monday, again challenging Beijing’s claim to the Gaven and Johnson reefs.

The USS Preble and USS Chung-Hoon asserted international rights to “innocent passage” and “challenge excessive maritime claims” to those areas, which are also claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Last year, China began a massive reclamation project on about half a dozen land features in the Spratlys, adding about 3,000 acres of artificial land and turning what were mere rocks barely above water at low tide into artificial islands large enough to host runways long enough to accommodate high-performance jet aircraft and naval docking.

“All operations are designed in accordance with international law and demonstrate the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows,” said Cmdr. Clay Doss, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet.

This latest incident comes as the administration continues to negotiate a new trade deal with China to replace the ever-rising tariffs both countries have imposed on each other. President Donald Trump has threatened to impose billions of dollars in new tariffs if China doesn’t bend on trade talks.

Trump tweeted Sunday that tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods will rise from 10 percent to 25 percent on Friday and that additional tariffs on $325 billion worth of currently untaxed goods will be imposed at a rate of 25 percent “shortly.”

Encircled by Malaysia to the south, the Philippines to the east and Vietnam to the west, the South China Sea is one of the most resource-rich regions on earth and hosts one third of the world’s shipping traffic. It holds a projected 28 billion barrels of oil, 260 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 10% of the world’s fisheries.

“The trade deal with China continues, but too slowly, as they attempt to renegotiate. No!” Trump wrote.

Sunday’s announcement comes ahead of continued trade discussions as Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is set to arrive Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Geng Shuang later said the country’s navy “identified and warned off” the U.S. warships.

“The relevant moves by the U.S. warships have infringed on China’s sovereignty and undermined peace and security in relevant waters,” the ministry said. “We firmly oppose that.”

The United States does not acknowledge China’s territorial claims in those waters.

“China urges the United States to stop these provocative actions,” Shuang said.

A similar encounter in the same waters in September forced a destroyer, the USS Decatur, to make a sharp maneuver to avoid colliding with a Chinese warship.

The U.S. Navy routinely sends warships through the Taiwan Strait, which also angers Beijing.