China revealed its “strong dissatisfaction” with the U.S. over the Navy’s latest freedom of navigation operation in which a warship traveled past one of China’s human-made islands in the contested West Philippine Sea.
The U.S. destroyer navigated past Mischief Reef Thursday as part of a freedom of navigation operation in international waters, a U.S. navy official said on a situation of anonymity.
The freedom of navigation action was the third that the United States has sent out since President Donald Trump took office in January. U.S. officials say the military will remain to sail, fly and operate wherever permitted by international law.
A leading U.S. think tank, meanwhile, issued a new report documenting what it said was remaining reclamation work on Chinese-controlled islands in the area despite a recent appeal by China’s foreign minister that such work had stopped two years ago.
In a report late Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang called the U.S. Navy’s move a “provocation” that “severely threatens China’s sovereignty and security, and seriously endangers the safety of frontline personnel of both sides.”
Beijing, which claims the entire South China Sea, routinely protests such actions, which Trump’s administration has continued partly to reassure allies locked in territorial conflicts with Beijing.
The U.S. is not a party to the conflicts in a potential oil- and gas-rich waters that also include Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
Washington, however, has stated it in its interest to assure that the conflicts are settled peacefully and that freedom of navigation and overflight continue unhampered.
Washington’s critical actions came as it solicits the help of Beijing, North Korea’s most significant economic partner, in taming Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons ambitions and completing its missile tests.