United States destroyers sail in disputed South China Sea amid trade tensions

United States destroyers sail in disputed South China Sea amid trade tensions

Members of a United States trade delegation including deputy U.S. trade representative Jeffrey Gerrish left a Beijing hotel on Tuesday (Feb 12) on their way to the second day of talks with Chinese officials.

"The relevant actions of the USA warships violated Chinese sovereignty, and undermined peace, security, and order in the relevant sea areas", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Monday, South China Morning Post reported.

Japan Times reports that the two ships came closest to Mischief Reef, a feature in the eastern Spratlys, which has been a site of major land reclamation and construction by the Chinese.

He then moved on without taking questions. "You have observed very carefully, and observed a series of tricks by the US side".

"It's great to be here back in Beijing".

Cmdr. Clay Doss, U.S. Seventh Fleet public affairs officer, told Fox News in a statement: "Guided-missile destroyers USS Spruance (DDG 111) and USS Preble (DDG 88) conducted freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS) in the South China Sea". In late September, the USS Decatur also sailed within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson reefs in the Spratly Islands as part of a similar freedom of navigation operation.

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command didn't respond to an email seeking comment on the patrol.

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"The key is whether the US and China can find common ground", said He Weiwen, a former commerce ministry official and now a senior fellow at the Center for China and Globalization, an independent research group.

Monday's operation was the second in the South China Sea reported by the US Navy this year.

Top US officials arrived in the Chinese capital on Tuesday ahead of high-level trade talks as the world's two largest economies attempt to hammer out a deal ahead of a March 1 deadline and avoid another escalation of tariffs.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative last week said China dispatched nearly 100 vessels to the Spratly chain in an effort to stop the Philippines from building on another feature known as Thitu Reef.

Hua, speaking on behalf of her government, demanded that the U.S.

China's claims to the South China Sea were largely discredited by an worldwide arbitration tribunal three years ago.

"We respect all countries' right for freedom of navigation and flight under worldwide law, but we firmly oppose any action to jeopardize the sovereignty and security of countries under the pretext of freedom of navigation", Hua said Monday.

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