PH backs US Navy presence in disputed maritime area

The USS John Mc Cain destroyer in the Asia Pacific region

The USS John Mc Cain destroyer in the Asia Pacific region

His comments came amidst reports from Washington that a US Navy destroyer carried out a "freedom of navigation operation" yesterday, coming within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea.

"McCain" illegally entered the waters near the reef and conducted a so-called "freedom of navigation operation" on Thursday without permission of the Chinese government, Xinhua quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang as saying.

China's foreign ministry also criticised the latest USA navy freedom of navigation patrol as disrupting hard-earned regional peace.

The U.S. and North Korea have been exchanging threats over North Korea's missile program.

China claims almost all of the sea, through which $5 trillion in annual shipping trade passes and which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits.

The Foreign Ministry pointed out that that the so-called U.S. "freedom of navigation" mission was carried out without authorization from Beijing, with has "indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands (Spratley) and its surrounding waters".

It was the third "freedom of navigation operation" or "fonop" during Trump's presidency.

Vietnam has competing claims over the Spratly Islands and was reportedly recently threatened by China to stop oil drilling.

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China has voiced discontent with the United States after an American warship sailed near an artificial island in the disputed South China Sea.

The think tank cited the recent 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Manila, wherein a joint communique was issued August 6 after a long debate.

It added that U.S. moves "to pick quarrels and make troubles under the banner of "freedom of navigation" endangered lives and harmed regional stability.

"They called and said 'Please turn around, you are in our waters, '" the newspaper's source said.

Missile systems and other defense infrastructure are believed to have also been installed on the islands, which the U.S. and China's neighbors fear could be used to project Chinese power into the area and potentially obstruct freedom of navigation. Therefore, China's legitimate activities within its territorial sea will continue as a routine, according to the statement.

"US military provocation will only encourage the Chinese military to further strengthen its defence capacity building and firmly defend national sovereignty", a defence statement read. Reuters reported that $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes through the disputed trade route each year, and the Trump administration vowed to conduct more robust operations in the region in order to maintain these trade routes.

An worldwide tribunal refuted China's claim to a large swathe of the South China Sea in 2016 in a case brought by the Philippines, though Beijing has rejected the ruling.

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