Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG-85) steamed past the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea on Monday in a freedom of navigation operation that drew the ire of Chinese government officials.
Lu Kang, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, was critical of McCampbell’s FONOP during his regularly scheduled briefing with the media.
“The Chinese side immediately sent military vessel and aircraft to conduct verification and identification on the U.S. ship and warned it to leave. We have lodged stern representations with the U.S. side,” Lu said, according to the official English translation of the ministry’s press conference.
McCampbells’ FONOP was first reported by Reuters.
Starting in the 1990s, in a move not recognized by international maritime law, China claimed a straight baseline around the entire Paracel Islands archipelago, which it calls the Xisha Islands. The Chinese government wants foreign warships to ask permission before operating near the islands. Vietnam and Taiwan also claim the chain.
In response, U.S. Navy officials stated McCampbell operated within the standards of international maritime law.
“On Jan. 7 (local time), guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG-85) conducted freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS) in the South China Sea. McCampbell sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law,” Lt. j.g. Rachel McMarr, a U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesperson, told USNI News.
Chinese officials typically complain about any U.S. Navy ships transiting near the holdings, stating such operations violate China’s sovereignty.
In May, Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG-54) and Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Higgins (DDG-76) sailed in a two-ship FONOP past the islands.
The May FONOP was called a “serious infringement on China’s sovereignty,” by Wu Qian, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defense, in a statement released at the time.
The following is the entire statement made Monday by Lu Kang, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson during his regularly scheduled briefing with the media, according to the ministry’s official English translation of the briefing transcript.
On January 7, the USS McCampbell entered China’s territorial seas around Xisha Islands without permission from the Chinese side. The Chinese side immediately sent military vessel and aircraft to conduct verification and identification on the US ship and warned it to leave. We have lodged stern representations with the US side.
The relevant action by the US vessel violated Chinese laws and relevant international laws, infringed upon China’s sovereignty, and undermined peace, security and order of the relevant waters. The Chinese side firmly opposes the relevant action by the US side and urges the US to immediately stop such provocations. We will continue to take necessary measures to safeguard our national sovereignty and security.
As for how this action will affect the current China-US trade talks, properly resolving all kind of issues between the two sides, including economic and trade issues, are beneficial to the two countries and the whole world. Both China and the US are responsible for creating the necessary positive atmosphere for this.