RT – July 2, 2017
China has sent military vessels and warplanes to “warn off” USS Stethem, a guided-missile destroyer, that sailed near a disputed island in the South China Sea, according to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang.
“Under the pretext of ‘freedom of navigation,’ the US side once again sent a military vessel into China’s territorial waters off the Xisha Islands without China’s approval,” the spokesperson said in a statement, adding that such US behavior “violated Chinese law and relevant international law, infringed upon China’s sovereignty, and disrupted the peace, security and order of the relevant waters.”
“China dispatched military vessels and fighter planes in response to warn off the US vessel,” the statement reads.
“The Chinese side is dissatisfied with, and opposed to, the relevant behavior of the US side,” Lu added, calling the US warplane’s maneuvers a “serious political and military provocation.” He said that the US is “deliberately stirring up troubles in the South China Sea, as well as running in the opposite direction from countries in the region who aspire for stability, cooperation and development.”
The US Navy did not officially confirm the operation. The US Pacific Fleet spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Matt Knight, told Fox News that the fleet conducts “routine and regular FONOPs, as we have done in the past and will continue to do in the future,” without specifically mentioning the Sunday incident.