Once again risking a confrontation with the Chinese Navy (at a particularly sensitive time, given where we are with the trade war) the Navy carried out another “freeop” in the South China Sea over the weekend.
A US Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer sailed within 12 miles of a disputed shoal, ignoring Beijing’s repeated warnings to stay away.
On Sunday, the USS Preble, a destroyer armed with Tomahawk missiles, sailed along the Scarborough Shoal, directly challenging China’s disputed claim to the area.
“Preble sailed within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough Reef in order to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law,” said Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the Seventh Fleet.
Beijing, always quick to condemn US incursions on its claimed territory, Foreign Minister Lu Kang said the ministry”strongly urges” the US to stop sending its warships to the region, calling them “provocative actions.”
Sunday’s ‘freeop’ is the second intrusion into the South China Sea this month. On May 6, the USS Chung-Hoon and the Preble sailed within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson Reefs in the Spratly Islands, which also triggered a response from Huawei.
“The relevant actions of the US warships violated China’s sovereignty and undermined peace, security and good order in the relevant sea areas,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said.
The latest freeop happened to coincide with bilateral naval drills being held in the South China Sea by the Indian and Singaporean Navies, which are set to conclude on Wednesday.
But as always, the trade-war spotlight will likely remain focused on the ongoing drama with Huawei.
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