US Destroyer Sails Close To Fiery Cross Reef In The South China Sea

A US guided missile destroyer sailed within twelve miles of the Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea on Tuesday as part of the freedom-of-navigation patrol of the United States. The William P. Lawrence sailed within the vicinity of the 700-acre artificial island built by China in the last eighteen months as tensions between the two countries increased prior to a UN arbitration ruling on the claim of Beijing in the South China Sea.

The ruling stems from a case brought by an American ally, the Philippines. It is expected to be released in the next few weeks.

Among the structures built by China on the Fiery Cross Reef were a deepwater port and a military-capable runway. The reef is part of the Spratly archipelago, which is located close to the Philippines. China says other countries should request permission to allow them to pass through the claim in the area.

The vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of China, General Fan Changlong, visited the artificial island to emphasize its rights on the Fiery Cross Reef. A performance group was also sent by the Chinese Army to provide entertainment to military personnel and construction workers on the island.

US Destroyer Sails Close To Fiery Cross Reef In The South China Sea

US Destroyer Sails Close To Fiery Cross Reef In The South China Sea - image credit: telegraph.co.uk

A Pentagon spokesman, Commander Bill Urban, said the William P. Lawrence was exercising its “right of innocent passage” as it sailed within 12 nautical miles of the reef. It means the American destroyer did not conduct military operations. However, China said the American vessel was illegally passing through Chinese waters. Foreign Ministry spokesman, Lu Kang, said China tracked and warned the ship.

The spokesman said the actions of the US threatened the sovereignty and security interests of China, endanger the facilities and staff on the reef, and damaged the peace and stability in the region. The Ministry of Defense of China later send three Chinese warships and three aircraft were sent to expel the American warship.

Yang Yujun, a spokesman for the ministry said it demonstrates that the installation of defensive facilities by China on the Nansha Islands is reasonable and necessary. Beijing refers to the Spratlys as the Nansha Islands.

The Pentagon said the operation was conducted to show the right of freedom of navigation. The Fiery Cross Reef is also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam. They said prior notice is required when ships pass within the 12-nautical mile zone. On the other hand, another claimant, the Philippines, does not have these demands.

The military of China revealed that it will conduct exercises in the region using warships, aircraft, submarines and troops from garrisons stationed at the Paracel Islands and the Spratly archipelago. A freedom-of-navigation operation was also conducted by the United States close to the Paracel Islands in January while another one was conducted in November close to the Subi Reef. The Pentagon said it did not inform any of the claimants about its recent freedom-of-navigation operation close to the Fiery Cross Reef.

Posted by on Thursday May 12 2016, 9:07 AM EST. All trademarks acknowledged. Filed under World. Comments and Trackbacks closed. Follow responses: RSS 2.0

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