Beijing ‘angered’ as 2 United States warships enter S. China Sea - spokeswoman

11 Février, 2019, 17:28 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau

China accused the USA of "tricks" as two American warships sailed through waters claimed by Beijing on the eve of high-level trade talks.

China's Foreign Ministry expressed anger on Monday after two U.S. navy ships sailed near islands claimed by Beijing in the disputed South China Sea.

Hua said the warships also neared the Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratlys, which is under Philippines control.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying deflected a question about whether the move would impact trade talks expected to get underway Tuesday in Beijing.

The so-called freedom-of-navigation patrols were reported earlier Monday by Reuters, which cited an unidentified US official.

Asked if the ships' passage would impact trade talks, Hua said that "a series of US tricks" showed what Washington was thinking.

The guided-missile destroyers USS Spruance and USS Preble sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Spratly Islands as part of what the US Navy calls a "freedom of navigation operation".

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command didn't respond to an email seeking comment on the patrol.

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The US and its allies periodically send planes and warships near South China Sea islands and reefs claimed by Beijing to signal their right under global law to pass through the waters, invariably angering China.

"Under such circumstances, the United States insistence on provocation, creating tensions and destroying the peace and stability of the South China Sea is unpopular", she said.

The sail-by comes as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer head for Beijing, the latest high-profile effort to resolve the two countries' trade dispute before their tariff cease-fire expires March 1.

Brit ministers have also claimed the United Kingdom should fight back more against China.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative last week said China dispatched nearly 100 vessels to the Spratly chain in an effort to stop the Philippines from building on another feature known as Thitu Reef.

The U.S. has conducted several freedom of navigation patrols in recent months.

"The relevant actions of the U.S. warships violated Chinese sovereignty, and undermined peace, security, and order in the relevant sea areas", Hua said. In January, China urged the U.S.to halt "provocative actions" after a USA guided-missile destroyer conducted sailed near the Paracel Islands, which are occupied by China and claimed by Vietnam.

-With assistance from Cecilia Yap.

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