China scrambles fighter jets as U.S. destroyer sails near disputed islands

by WorldTribune Staff, October 11, 2017

The Pentagon said a U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer on Oct. 10 carried out a freedom-of-navigation operation near islands claimed by China in South China Sea.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee

U.S. defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that the USS Chafee carried out normal maneuvering operations that challenged “excessive maritime claims” near the Paracel Islands.

China’s Defense Ministry said on Oct. 11 that a warship, two fighter jets and a helicopter had scrambled to warn the USS Chafee away, adding the vessel had infringed upon China’s sovereignty and security with its “provocation.”

In August, a U.S. Navy destroyer came within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built by China in the South China Sea. Officials said the USS Chafee sailed close to but not within that range of the Paracels on Oct. 10.

The Pentagon has said the United States would continue to carry out the freedom-of-navigation operations.

U.S. President Donald Trump will makes his first visit to Asia as president next month. The trip will include a stop in China, which Trump has been pressuring to do more to rein in North Korea.

“China will continue to take resolute measures to protect Chinese sovereign territory and maritime interests,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said. “China urges the U.S. to conscientiously respect China’s sovereign territory and security interests, conscientiously respect the efforts regional countries have made to protect peace and stability in the South China Sea, and stop these wrong actions.”

China’s claims in the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in shipborne trade passes each year, are contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

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