Navy destroyer sails past Chinese-claimed reef in South China Sea

US destroyer sails in disputed South China Sea to ‘challenge excessive’ claims by China

As US military warships sailed near the disputed islands in the South China Sea, China hit back at the US asserting that it should "immediately stop provocative actions" as relations between the two nations continued to remain on the boil.

The tribunal also noted China's destruction of the marine environment in the area and its violation of Filipino fishermen's rights to fish in Scarborough Shoal.

It also comes as Beijing and Washington face off in a protracted trade war in which both sides appear to be unwilling to bend - stances that could have a dramatic effect on the global economy. Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan all have competing claims in the region as well.

The Philippines lost control of Scarborough after a 2012 standoff with China, prompting Manila to file a case for worldwide arbitration.

The Navy last week sent a US vessel to an exercise in the area near the contested shoal. Filipino fishermen working nearby had initially spotted the massive USA vessel, media reports said. The U.S. fears the outposts could be used to restrict free movement in the waterway - which includes vital sea lanes through which about $3 trillion in global trade passes each year - and regularly conducts FONOPs in the area.

The most recent round of trade talks between the Trump administration and China broke up earlier this month without an agreement after Trump accused China of backing out on agreed-to parts of a deal and hiked tariffs on $200 billion of imports from China.

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The U.S. says that its military operates in the region on a daily basis in accordance with global law.

China defends its construction as necessary for self-defense and says the United States is responsible for ratcheting up tension by sending warships and military planes close to islands Beijing claims.

"All operations are designed in accordance with global law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever worldwide law allows", Doss said.

Since late 2018, satellite imagery has shown these fleets-described by the Center for Strategic and International Studies- Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative as "China's most destructive boats"-operating frequently in Scarborough Shoal and throughout the Paracels, including at Bombay Reef". "That is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe". He added, however, that China is firmly opposed to actions that damage the sovereignty and security of littoral states under the pretext of "freedom of navigation and overflight".

But any decision by China to forcefully take over the collection of outcroppings for land-reclamation purposes would likely be met with resistance by the US, the Philippines and others.

Earlier this month, two United States warships entered waters adjacent to Gaven and Chigua reefs in the Spratlys, sparking fury from China.

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