The United States has criticized China’s construction of islands and build-up of military facilities in the sea and is concerned they could be used to restrict access the area.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the USS Mustin sailed close to Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands and carried out maneuvering actions.
Mischief Reef or Kagitingan Reef was controlled by the Philippines until China take over the place by building fisherman’s shelter in 1995.
China’s ministry said provocative behavior by the United States will only cause the Chinese military to strengthen its defense capabilities. It added that the USS Mustin had been warned by the frigates Huangshan and Zhenjiang, but the warship ignored.
“We demand the US side earnestly respects China’s sovereignty and security and the strong wishes of countries in the region to protect peace, stability, and tranquility, and not make trouble out of nothing and stir up havoc,” it said.
The patrol is the first operation since January, a day after U.S. President Trump signed a presidential memorandum that will target up to $60 billion in Chinese goods with duties.
Meanwhile, China’s navy will carry out combat drills in the West Philippine Sea, as the military’s describing the move as part of their regular annual exercises.
ASEAN China drills
China first proposed the joint military drills in 2015, but some ASEAN members objected as Beijing wanted them conducted in the South China Sea where there are overlapping claims.
Military leaders from the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China agreed Tuesday to conduct joint military drills this year
The first time will be a tabletop exercise in China, possibly in October, while the second will be a field training exercise in waters of an ASEAN member state, probably the Philippines, in late November or December. Three preparatory meetings are planned to be held in Singapore and in China to map out details.
Aside from this activity, Britain said one of its warships would pass through the South China Sea to assert freedom-of-navigation rights.
Observers say China is developing its military capabilities by fortifying and building infrastructure on what were previously reefs and partially-submerged islets in the sea, where more than $5 trillion of trade passes every year.