US, China Naval Chiefs discuss South China Sea dispute

Senior US official says American warships will continue to regularly sail within 12-nautical mile limit of islands built by China in South China Sea

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

China is building a navy that can break out of its confined coastal waters.

The US Navy’s Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson, and Chinese Navy Chief Admiral Wu Shengli spoke on Thursday morning via a video teleconference about sail limit in South China Sea at China's request.

The US launched a naval mission on Tuesday, deploying the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen near to the two artificial islands built by China in the the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea.

A senior US official stated Thursday that American warships will continue to "regularly" sail within the 12-nautical mile limit of islands built by China in the South China Sea, despite protests from China after the USS Lassen's passage near one of the man-made islets this week.

The US defence confirmed that the USS Lassen was followed at a safe distance by a Chinese ship adding that no incidents were reported during the 115 km passage.

A US official commented on the discussion on Wednesday saying, “This call was not scheduled, but agreed upon between the two naval staffs in light of current events.”

According to China’s Foreign Ministry, the US had threatened China’s sovereignty and security with its actions in South China Sea on Monday.

Reactions in the past

The move on Tuesday prompted reaction in China as Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui called it “extremely irresponsible.”

Cui Tiankai, the Chinese ambassador to the US also described the operation as “a very serious provocation, politically and militarily.”

Another statement came from the Chinese Defence Ministry saying the patrol is a “coercive action that seeks to militarize the South China Sea region” and an abuse of freedom of navigation under international law.

However, Bill Urban, a US Defense Department spokesperson said, “The United States is conducting routine operations in the South China Sea in accordance with international law.”

“US forces operate in the Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea. All operations are conducted in accordance with international law.”

Meanwhile, US State Department spokesperson John Kirby said, "The US-China relationship is vitally important and one that we want to see continue to improve and to grow for the benefit of both our countries, not to mention the region."

White House spokesman Josh Earnest also told a news conference, "The reason the United States is interested here is that we're not making claims on those land features there but we certainly do have a financial interest and a broader strategic interest in ensuring that freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce continues unimpeded in the South China Sea."

China started its reclamation campaign in the South China Sea adding almost 3,000 acres of artificial land and mere rocks barely above the water to its sovereignty saying the islands are being built for civilian purposes.

After some satellite photographs showing the construction of three military length airstrips that might be used for military purposes emerged, the US, Japan and Philippines have voiced that hey are concerned by China’s expansion.

TRTWorld and agencies