The United States Navy guided-missile destroyers Preble and Chung Hoon to conduct freedom of navigation operation within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson Reefs in the Spratly Islands, a U.S. military spokesperson told Reuters news agency.
According to Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the Seventh Fleet, the innocent passage aimed to challenge excessive maritime claims and maintain access to the waterways as governed by international law.Reuters
In China, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, the United States Navy ships entered the waters near the islets without the Chinese government permission, and the Chinese navy warned them to leave.
The moves by the U.S. Navy warship violated Chinese sovereignty and damaged the peace, security and good order of the relevant seas. China is strongly disappointed with the operation and firmly opposed to it,” he told a daily news briefing.
The Chinese navy asked the U.S. vessels to leave after they entered waters in the Spratly Islands, which Beijing calls Nansha, the foreign ministry said.
Last week, the Philippine Navy has sent around 400 of its personnel on board to an amphibious warship BRP Tarlac and participate the founding anniversary of China’s Navy.
The latest freedom of navigation operation of United States Navy comes days after a naval parade marking 70 years since the founding of the Chinese Navy.