Is the U.S. being too provocative in sending its naval destroyers to close to China?
A U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer sailed close to China’s man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea on Tuesday, drawing an angry rebuke from Beijing, which said it warned and followed the American vessel being provocative, and damaging peace and stability.
Chinese navy ships entered U.S. territorial waters off of Alaska in September, coming within 12 miles of the coastline, multiple defense officials told us. The U.S. did not challenge the ships, to be consistent with international law, but condemned the operation even though they we called “routine” by the Chinese.
China’s Foreign Ministry said the “relevant authorities” monitored, followed and warned the USS Lassen as it “illegally” entered waters near islands and reefs in the Spratlys without the Chinese government’s permission.
“China will resolutely respond to any country’s deliberate provocations,” the ministry said in a statement that gave no details on precisely where the U.S. ship sailed.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang later told a daily briefing that if the United States continued to “create tensions in the region,” China might conclude it had to “increase and strengthen the building up of our relevant abilities”.
“China hopes to use peaceful means to resolve all the disputes, but if China has to make a response then the timing, method and tempo of the response will be made in accordance with China’s wishes and needs.”
The second U.S. defense official said additional patrols would follow in coming weeks and could be conducted around features that Vietnam and the Philippines have built up in the Spratlys.
“By using a guided-missile destroyer, rather than smaller vessels … they are sending a strong message,” said Ian Storey, a South China Sea expert at Singapore’s Institute of South East Asian Studies.
“They have also said, significantly, that there will be more patrols – so it really now is up to China how it will respond.”
Some experts have said China would likely resist attempts to make such U.S. actions routine. China’s navy could for example try to block or attempt to surround U.S. vessels, they said, risking an escalation.
However, when China sent 12 vessels to the U.S. last month, they did not continue exercises near the U.S. The brash moves of the U.S. military may cause China to perform more routine operations near the U.S. one expert says.
He also stated this could open the door for Russia and other counties like Japan to make more exercises near U.S. land, including Hawaii.