US warship passes contested island in South China Sea

BEIJING, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) – The U.S. Pacific Commander Harry Harris’ remarks on the South China Sea lack historical common sense as China’s sovereignty over islands in the South China Sea and their adjacent waters have adequate historical and legal basis, a defense ministry spokesperson said Thursday in Beijing.

“More than 100,000 vessels of various countries sail through the South China Sea with no incident every year”.

An incursion by a US warship in Chinese territorial waters on Saturday is the latest attempt by Washington to return tension to the South China Sea and encourage more regional stakeholders to challenge China, according to observers.

Reacting to the actions of USS Curtis Wilbur, a guided missile destroyer, China’s defense ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said that the Chinese armed forces will take whatever measures necessary to safeguard China’s sovereignty and security, no matter what provocations the USA may make.

Yang’s statement came hours after the USS Curtis Wilbur, a guided missile destroyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Zhongjian Dao (Triton Island), part of the Xisha Islands (Paracel Islands) – an archipelago claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.

It described the American action as “intentionally provocative and “irresponsible and extremely dangerous”. It went on to say that the United Nations law also stipulates that “foreign ships exercising the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea shall comply with related laws and regulations the coastal State may adopt”. Chinese leaders are calling it “a severe provocation” and a violation of Chinese law. Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou ignored a rebuke from the USA and visited an island in the contested area earlier this week, reiterating claims to the disputed waterway.

“The Chinese troops stationed at the islands and naval ships and airplanes made an immediate response, took countermeasures and conducted identification and verification against the U.S. warship”, Yang said.

Zhang Junshe, a senior researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said the South China Sea situation had been eased for some time before the latest outspoken remarks and intrusion by Washington. “They identified and verified the USA warship, warned and expelled it swiftly”.

“The US claims to be a bystander, but judging from its recent warship and aircraft activities, it is a bystander too eager to become involved”, it said.

“China still wants to be seen in the global community as being reasonable; it is not in its interests to have confrontations with the US”, Xu said. “At a time when the whole world is pursuing peace, development, cooperation and win-win results, China will firmly stick to its path of peaceful development, which serves its fundamental interests and meets the common aspiration of all countries and people in the region”.

Xinhua said: “Facts have proved that China, instead of doing any harm to the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, has provided public services to ensure the safety of all vessels sailing in the waters”.

Harris again lashed out at Chinese land reclamation, claiming: “They [China] will control the South China Sea against all the militaries out there with the exception of the USA military in all scenarios short of war”. “Australia strongly supports these rights”, Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne said.



The U.S. Navy conducted a similar exercise in October in which the guided-missile destroyer Lassen sailed close to one of China's man-made islands

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