US Navy ship sailed close to China’s man-made islands in South China Sea on Tuesday, drawing an angry rebuke from Beijing, which said it followed the US American .
The USS Lassen was a challenge to the 2-nautical-mile limit China maintains around the islands in the Spratly archipelago and make the block the sea route in a jiffy.
The USS Lassen sailed 12 nautical miles (22-km) of Subi Reef. A defence official said the mission, which lasted a few hours would be the first in a series of freedom-of-navigation exercises aimed at testing China’s territorial claims.
China’s foreign ministry said the “relevant authorities” monitored, followed and warned the USS Lassen as it “illegally” entered the waters near the archipelago without China’s permission.
“China is duty bound to respond to any provocation,” said the ministry in a statement. Later, a foreign ministry spokesperson, Lu Kang said if the US created tension in the region, China might have to rethink of “building up its abilities”.
“China hopes to use peaceful means to resolve all disputes, but if China has to respond, it will be made in line with its wishes and needs,” he added.
White House spokesperson, Josh Earnest said the US told China the significance of free flow of commerce in South China Sea, while referring specific questions on the US ship to the Pentagon.
The US Navy last went in the Spratlys archipelago in 2012.
“By using a guided-missile destroyer… the US is sending a rather strong message,” said Ian Storey, a South China Sea expert, Singapore’s Institute of South East Asian Studies.
Zhu Feng, executive director, China Centre for Collaborative Studies of the South China Sea, at University, said he expected Beijing to limit its response as it did not want a confrontation.