China island-building still on

China island-building still on

A UNITED STATES naval vessel passed through the South China Sea within 12 nautical miles of a Chinese artificial island on Thursday, in a move likely to agitate Beijing.

"The US navy violated Chinese and global laws and breached Chinese sovereignty and endangered life and security of frontline personnel", foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement on Thursday.

However, the US officials said that the USS John S. McCain sailed past an island in the disputed Spratly chain in the South China Sea, which is the third mission under the Trump administration.

In its Defence White Paper approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday, Japan claimed that "China tried to change the status quo in East China Sea and South China Sea based on its own assertions, and this has become a common concern of the region and the world at large".

Col Wu said that the Diaoyu Islands and its affiliated islets are China territory, which is fully backed by historical and legal documents.

In a statement published on the official website of China's Ministry of National Defence, Senior Colonel Wu said the section on China in the annual Defence White Paper is full of lies and stereotypes.

However, President Rodrigo Duterte has chosen to tread softly on the territorial dispute and refused to invoke the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration that recognized the Philippines' claims over China's.

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More significantly, the latest United States naval patrol comes days after a meeting of China and ASEAN foreign ministers in the Philippines had agreed a framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea which is contested by multiple claimants including China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines.

The so-called "freedom of navigation" mission involved the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer sailing within the 12-mile range of an artificial island reclaimed by China.

After a typhoon washed out the bridge in October previous year, China began to undertake reclamation anew on the southern end of North Island and "built a retaining wall around the [2.73 hectares] of new land to prevent further erosion".

"Under the pretext of "navigation freedom", the USA side once again sent a military vessel into China's territorial waters off the Xisha Islands without China's approval".

The Paracels play "a key role in China's goal of establishing surveillance and power projection capabilities throughout the South China Sea", the report said.

Although the final joint communique decried militarization in the South China Sea, it neither mentioned Manila's arbitration win nor called for a legally binding code of conduct in the disputed waters. Washington, however, has declared it in its interest to ensure that the conflicts are resolved peacefully and that freedom of navigation and overflight remain unhampered.

Tensions have risen recently after North Korea carried out two nuclear tests past year and two ICBM tests last month, prompting a strong round of UN sanctions which angered Pyongyang who threatened to teach the United States a "severe lesson".

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