China 'warns off' United States destroyer in South China Sea

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The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the USS Mustin traveled close to Mischief Reef (Meiji Reef, 美濟礁) in the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島), which are also claimed by Taiwan, and carried out maneuvering operations.

The US military put countering China and Russian Federation at the center of a new national defense strategy recently unveiled. 'By repeatedly sending military ships into these areas without authorization, the USA has seriously harmed Chinese sovereignty and security, violated basic rules of worldwide relations, and harmed regional peace and stability'.

Friday's operation was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing's efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters.

It said two Chinese Navy ships "took immediate action to identify and verify the USA ship, and warned and dispelled it".

In a separate statement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that China has always respected and safeguarded freedoms of navigation and overflight under worldwide law in the South China Sea. The spokesperson of US Pacific Fleet, Lt Cmdr Nicole Schwegman also said that the US would continue to do the same in the future as well.

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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 has conducted several FONOPs in the area.

It would be the second time in less than a year that Vietnam has had to cancel a major oil development in the busy South China Sea waterway under pressure from China.

For the USA such a sail is Freedom of Navigation operations.

In related news, the Chinese Navy said, via the military's official newspaper, on Friday that it is preparing to carry out combat drills in the South China Sea.

China could adopt a stronger approach should such an event occur again, Li argued, describing the tensions between the two countries in the South China Sea as bordering on "extreme danger".

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"This is a routine annual planned arrangement for the navy, the aim of which is to test and improve the military's training level and to fully raise the ability to win".

The Spanish operator has been told by state-owned PetroVietnam to suspend the field scheme - translated as Red Emperor - off the country's south-east coast just as it was about to mobilise a rig to kick off commercial drilling work, the BBC reported, citing a well-placed industry source.

But the ongoing nuclear crisis in North Korea and a distracted U.S. government under President Donald Trump has diverted attention from the area, allowing the Chinese government to tighten its hold.

In January, a United States destroyer carried out FONOP and came within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough Shoal.

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