Philippines Not Concerned by US Operation Near Spratly Islands - Spokesman

Southeast Asian body notes concerns on South China Sea

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.

"Such a move severely undermines China's sovereignty and security, and severely endangers the safety of frontline personnel of both sides", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said in a statement.

Beijing protested on Friday, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Mischief Reef is one of the disputed features in the West Philippine Sea which falls within the Philippine exclusive economic zone and continental shelf but where China has carried out extensive land reclamation work and built an artificial island for possible military use.

The reef is part of the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, which is the scene of rival claims between China and neighbouring countries.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak to the press about the matter.

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"They happen off the coast of Canada" and "in the waters off shore of our major allies, friends, partners all around the world", she said. "We told them we are a USA (ship) conducting routine operations in worldwide waters". China claims almost all of the strategically vital sea, through which United States dollars 5 trillion in annual shipping trade passes and is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits.

"They are claimed in their entirety by China, Taiwan and Vietnam, while portions are claimed by Malaysia and the Philippines".

But in recent years Beijing has managed to weaken regional resistance by courting some Asean members.

The US has criticized China's construction of islands and build-up of military facilities in the disputed territories and was concerned it could be used to restrict free nautical movement.

"The US military's provocative actions will only encourage the Chinese military to further strengthen the defence capacity building and firmly defend national sovereignty and security", Qian said. The operation came as President Donald Trump's administration seeks Chinese cooperation in dealing with North Korea's missile and nuclear programmes, and could complicate efforts to secure a common stance. Sailing within those 12 miles is meant to show that the United States does not recognise territorial claims there.

"And the point of that is to demonstrate that the United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever global law allows".

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