China Vows Necessary Measures after US Warship Nears Huangyan Island


China Saturday vowed to take "necessary measures" to safeguard its sovereignty after a United States warship entered the waters surrounding Huangyan Island in the South China Sea without Beijing's permission.

The missile destroyer came within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough Shoal, called Huangyan Island by China, on Wednesday night, according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang.

China's defence ministry said in a separate statement that a Chinese frigate "immediately took actions to identify and verify the U.S. ship and drove it away by warning" it.

Russia's foreign minister described a new U.S. national defense strategy as "confrontational" after Washington singled out China and Russian Federation as growing threats.

Despite Washington having no territorial claims in the area - unlike China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei - it has always stressed the necessity for freedom of navigation in the area and opposed China's claims.

The U.S. military has a longstanding position that such operations are carried out throughout the world, including in areas claimed by allies, and that they are separate from political considerations.

Beijing asserts sovereignty over nearly all of the resource-rich South China Sea despite rival claims from Southeast Asian neighbours and has rapidly built reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes.

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"China always respects and safeguards the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea all countries are entitled to under the worldwide law".

"The United States conducts routine and regular FONOPs (Freedom of Navigation Operations), as we have done in the past and will continue to do so in the future", Navy Lt. Cmdr.

A U.S. Navy warship sailed close to a contested reef west of the Philippines this week, drawing the ire of Beijing which issued a statement Saturday accusing the U.S. of trespassing in its territorial waters.

The South China Sea has crucial shipping lanes, rich fishing grounds and potential oil, gas and other mineral deposits.

The United States has criticized China for constructing islands and military installations in the region, saying they could be used to restrict free nautical movement.

The reef is home to a major fishery, and China's 2012 seizure of the territory sparked major tensions with Filipino fishermen.

The US and Chinese militaries have had frequent standoffs in the South China Sea.

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