TEHRAN (Dispatches) - The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said Wednesday it had expelled a U.S. guided-missile destroyer that trespassed in China’s territorial waters near the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea.
PLA Southern Theater Command Spokesperson Tian Junli said in a statement that the U.S. military’s act had seriously undermined China’s sovereignty and security interests, CGTN reported.
Calling Washington “a risk maker” to the security of the South China Sea and the “biggest destroyer” of the region’s safety and stability, Tian warned that the theater command will “remain on high alert”.
“We will resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and security, as well as peace and stability in the region,” he said.
The U.S. navy, however, said that the destroyer “asserted navigation rights and freedoms” within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands.
“The United States challenges excessive maritime claims without regard to the nation asserting them,” it said in a statement Wednesday.
It added that another destroyer, the USS Carl Vinson, and its strike group were also training elsewhere in the region.
Back in July, the Benfold passed through the Taiwan Strait, in another move that China routinely condemns as a provocation.
Just days earlier, China imposed a law requiring foreign vessels to give notice before entering its territorial waters.
China claims the South China Sea in its entirety. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei have overlapping claims to parts of the sea.
The U.S., however, sides with Beijing’s rival claimants in the dispute.
China has always warned the US against military activities in the sea. Beijing says potential close military encounters between the air and naval forces of the two countries in the region may cause accidents.