China Slams US Navy's Freedom of Navigation in South China Sea
Two US Navy vessels, littoral combat ship Gabrielle Giffords and the destroyer Wayne E. Meyer, sailed through the freewaters adjacent to Nansha Islands Xisha Islands in the South China Sea on Wednesday and Thursday. The Gabrielle Giffords sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Meiji Reef.
Official statement of the China claims the Chinese navy and air force tracked and monitored the two vessels, verified them and warned them to leave. The US Navy conducted the Freedom of Navigation movements as China continued to make territorial claims over the South China Sea.
According to Global Times the US military has made two tactical changes:
- This was the first time that a US littoral combat ship carried out such a task. Littoral combat ships are more flexible compared to traditional destroyers which conducted such operations in the past.
- US Navy vessels trespassed into the Nansha Islands and Xisha Islands at the same time. They generally went to one area in the past.
"China should deal with the changes with targeted measures." -- Global Times
The United States accuses China of militarizing the South China Sea and trying to intimidate Asian neighbors who might want to exploit its extensive oil and gas reserves. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper met Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe earlier this week for closed-door talks on the sidelines of a gathering of defense ministers in Bangkok.
Wei urged Esper to “stop flexing muscles in the South China Sea and to not provoke and escalate tensions in the South China Sea”, a Chinese spokesman said.