|China’s foreign ministry is strongly protesting the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Stethem’s sailing within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) of tiny Triton island, which is claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam. |
China dispatched naval ships and fighter planes Sunday to “warn off the U.S. vessel.” Washington’s move “violated the Chinese law and relevant international law, infringed upon China’s sovereignty, disrupted peace, security and order of the relevant waters ... and thus constitutes a serious political and military provocation."
|The U.S. Pacific Fleet had no comment on China’s statement or any specifics of the Stethem’s operations. |
Triton lies in the Paracel island group, north of the Spratlys, where China has conducted massive land reclamation activities on seven reefs and atolls. Freedom of navigation operation missions are used to bolster the argument that nations cannot claim that prior notice is required before passing through territorial waters as allowed under international agreement. Chinese law, however, requires that foreign military vessels receive China’s permission before passing through its territorial waters.
|Meanwhile China’s sole aircraft carrier is headed south on a training exercise that will take it into Hong Kong for the first time. The 60,000-ton Liaoning left its home port June 25 along with the destroyers Jinan and Yinchuan for what was described as a weeks-long, transregional training mission.|
A report on the defense ministry website said its complement of J-15 jet fighters and helicopters have been conducting flight training along its voyage.