Beijing slams U.S. 'freedom of navigation' exercises in South China Sea

The USS John Mc Cain destroyer in the Asia Pacific region

The USS John Mc Cain destroyer in the Asia Pacific region

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said the USS Naval ship John S. McCain illegally entered the waters near the Meiji Reef Islands without permission of the Chinese government.

"China is resolutely opposed to this kind of show of force and pushing of regional militarization by the USA that may easily cause an unexpected incident at sea or in the air", China's Defense Ministry said in a statement.

McCain destroyer sailed within six nautical miles of Mischief Reef - an artificial island built by China - on Thursday as part of a "freedom of navigation" operation, a U.S. official said.

It also comes as US President Donald Trump is seeking China's cooperation to rein in North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.

The United States has said that it would like to see more worldwide participation in freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.

They sought compliance with an arbitration ruling a year ago that invalidated China's claims in the South China Sea.

The disputes and North Korea's recent intercontinental ballistic missile tests were high on the agenda of an annual gathering of Asia-Pacific foreign ministers last weekend in Manila.

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However, the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies said China was continuing to reclaim land in the Paracel Islands to the north of the Spratlys.

The reef is part of the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, which is the scene of rival claims between China and neighbouring countries.

"They happen off the coast of Canada" and "in the waters off shore of our major allies, friends, partners all around the world", she said.

The United States has criticized China's construction of islands and build-up of military facilities in the sea, and is concerned they could be used to restrict free nautical movement. "We told them we are a United States [ship] conducting routine operations in worldwide waters".

Missile systems and other defense infrastructure are believed to have also been installed on the islands, which the USA and China's neighbors fear could be used to project Chinese power into the area and potentially obstruct freedom of navigation.

And what can only be a bigger threat to the world than two countries not being forthright about activities in global waters claimed by several other countries? Its sweeping claims overlap with those of ASEAN members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as Taiwan.

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