China says US damaged stability in South China Sea after warship sails near disputed island

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang

China’s foreign ministry said that the United States had seriously damaged peace and stability in the South China Sea after a United States warship sailed near a disputed island claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The USS Stethem, a guided-missile destroyer, sailed on Sunday (June 2) within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island, part of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, a US Defense Department official said. The official added that the operation was meant to challenge the competing claims of all three nations.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang on Monday, July 3, called the move a “serious provocative political and military move” at a regular briefing in Beijing on Monday. In a separate statement, the ministry said China had sent battle ships and fighter jets to warn off the Stethem.

“Under the banner of freedom of navigation, the US side once again dispatched a warship to enter the territorial waters of China’s Xisha Islands (the Paracel Islands) without permission, violating the relevant Chinese and international laws, seriously infringing upon China’s territorial sovereignty, damaging the peace and stability of the relevant maritime territory’s peace, security and proper order, violated the facilities on China’s islands as well as the safety of the personnel. This is a serious provocative political and military move. The Chinese side expresses strong dissatisfaction and is resolutely opposed to the US side’s relevant conduct,” Geng said.

The territorial limits recognized internationally are pegged at 12 nautical miles. Sailing within those 12 miles is meant to show that the US does not recognize territorial claims there.

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson said that the situation in the South China Sea had been “cooling down” because of the ongoing efforts by China and the member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“Thanks to the joint efforts by China and ASEAN member countries, the situation of the South China Sea has been cooling down and assumed a momentum of positive development,” Geng said.

“The (US), however, has deliberately stirred up troubles in the South China Sea and that runs counter to the common aspirations of the regional countries for seeking stability, cooperation and development,” he added.

(Reuters with CCTV news)