Beijing protests USA navy destroyer's freedom of navigation operation in disputed waters

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A maritime dispute in the South China Sea flared up on Thursday when a USA destroyer sailed near man-made island claimed by China, a move Beijing labeled a "provocation" and the United States called appropriate under global law.

According to unnamed USA officials, the USS John S McCain sailed close to Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, the string of islets where China is building new facilities, paving the way for Beijing to deploy an array of military assets in the region.

Geng added the Chinese Navy identified the USA warship, warned and expelled it.

"We told them we are a usa [ship] conducting routine operations in global waters".

"China is very displeased with this and will bring up the issue with the USA side".

"China is resolutely opposed to this kind of show of force and pushing of regional militarization by the United States that may easily cause an unexpected incident at sea or in the air", Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

The United States has said that it would like to see more global participation in freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.

Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Logan declined to comment on whether there had been a freedom of navigation sailing but he said the United States would continue to do such operations. "Summaries of these operations will be released publicly in the annual FONOPS report, and not sooner".

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Filipino soldiers stationed in BRP Sierra Madre, a rusting ship that was grounded near Mischief Reef in 1999, may have monitored the latest US Navy operation after US military officials supposedly notified Philippine counterparts of the maneuver. 12 nautical miles from shore marks the territorial boundary for all nations.

The Foreign Ministry pointed out that that the so-called United States "freedom of navigation" mission was carried out without authorization from Beijing, with has "indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands (Spratley) and its surrounding waters".

Two other US Navy ships approached China-claimed islands in the South China Sea in July and May.

China, which despite a pledge to the contrary, has continued to militarize the waters as it seeks to reinforce effective control of much of the waterway, through which at least $3 trillion in trade passes each year. Its sweeping claims overlap with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei all ASEAN members as well as Taiwan.

A US Navy official told The Associated Press that the destroyer USS John S. McCain sailed past Mischief Reef on Thursday but gave no details.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies' Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) wrote in an analysis just after November's USA presidential election that the FONOP location most directly related to enforcement of the arbitration court ruling was Mischief Reef, which was found to be a low-tide elevation that does not generate an entitlement to a territorial sea, exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.

Although China opposes inclusion of the sea disputes in global conferences, partly to prevent the U.S. and other Western governments from intervening, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Japan's new top diplomat, Taro Kono, expressed concern over aggressive actions in the waters.