Tuesday, February 21, 2017 11:27 am
China said on Tuesday it opposed action by other countries under the pretext of freedom of navigation that undermined its sovereignty, after a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group began patrols in the contested South China Sea.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a press briefing that this decision was taken after a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group began patrols in the contested South China Sea.
The U.S. navy said the strike group, including the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier the U.S.S. Carl Vinson, began “routine operations” in the South China Sea amid growing tension with China over control of the disputed waterway.
“China always respects the freedom of navigation and overflight all countries enjoy under international law.
“However, we are consistently opposed to relevant countries threatening and damaging the sovereignty and security of littoral countries under the flag of freedom of navigation and overflight,” he said.
During the China’s first official comment on the latest U.S. patrol since it began, Geng said “we hope relevant countries can do more to safeguard regional peace and stability.
The U.S. carrier strike group has not referred to its recent operations in the South China Sea as “freedom of navigation” patrols.
U.S. ships last year conducted several such patrols to counter any efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters.
Friction between the U.S. and China over trade and territory under U.S. President Donald Trump has increased concern that the South China Sea could become a flashpoint.
China wrapped up its own naval exercises in the South China Sea on Friday.
War games involving its own aircraft carrier have unnerved neighbours with which it has long-running territorial disputes.