US warships again challenge China's claims in South China Sea

Clay Curtis
February 12, 2019

If a deal wasn't made by that date, the White House has said it will raise the tariff rate on more than $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25% from their current level of 10%.

China illegally asserts control over the disputed Spratlys and surrounding waters.

The South China Morning Post reported on Monday that one preliminary proposal being discussed was for the two leaders to meet on the southern Chinese island of Hainan, around the time of the annual Boao Forum for Asia, which will take place from March 26 to 29.

In September, a Chinese warship came within just 45 yards of a US destroyer, raising concerns about the possibility of tensions boiling over into conflict.

China's foreign ministry expressed anger on Monday after the warships sailed in the disputed South China Sea.

The operation was carried out "to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by worldwide law", Cmdr.

"The US action violated the Chinese laws and worldwide laws, infringed China's sovereignty, damaged regional peace, security, and order", Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said at the time.

Beijing asserts almost all of the South China Sea as its territorial waters.

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The operation was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing's efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, where Chinese, Japanese and some Southeast Asian navies operate. In January, the destroyer USS McCampbell sailed within 22kms of the Paracel Islands.

Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan have competing claims in the region.

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 worldwide law to pass through the waters, invariably angering China.

The rising military tension comes against the backdrop of an increasingly bitter trade war between China and the US.

Top US officials have attacked China for everything from human rights abuses to cyber espionage in America.

Beijing and Washington remain at loggerheads over U.S. allegations for China's militarisation of the South China Sea by building military installations on artificial islands and reefs.

The two countries are also at loggerheads over regional security, with the USA offering support to the island nation of Taiwan, which China also claims as its own.

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