US warship sails in disputed South China Sea amid trade tensions

Clay Curtis
May 21, 2019

Competing claims in April 2012 led to a standoff between naval and coast guard vessels from the Philippines - a USA ally - and China at Scarborough Shoal, which lies 120 nautical miles west of the Philippine island of Luzon, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

For the second time this month, the us destroyer Preble sailed near islands claimed by China in the disputed South China Sea while the two countries engage in a trade fight. "But the new methods being used to extract clams at Scarborough Shoal suggest that documenting the activities of these Chinese fleets has become more hard", AMTI said, noting that the use of water pumps in deeper waters is "unlikely to be visible" via satellite imagery.

The U.S. guided-missile destroyers Preble.

Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump hiked tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods, with China announcing it would raise tariffs on $60 billion in US merchandise from June 1 in retaliation.

"I must stress once again that the USA warship's relevant actions have violated China's sovereignty and undermined the peace, security and good order in the relevant sea areas". China deplores and firmly opposes such moves.

China's Foreign Ministry said Monday that it "strongly urges stop such provocative actions".

The U.S. military has a long-standing position that its operations are carried out throughout the world, including areas claimed by allies, and they are separate from political considerations.

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China and the USA have repeatedly traded barbs in the past over what Washington says is Beijing's militariation of the South China Sea by building military installations on artificial islands and reefs.

The US operation is the second in the South China Sea in the last month.

China claims nearly all of the strategic South China Sea and frequently rails against the United States and its allies over naval operations conducted near Chinese-claimed islands. He added, however, that China is firmly opposed to actions that damage the sovereignty and security of littoral states under the pretext of "freedom of navigation and overflight".

The Preble's journey into the disputed waterway also coincided with bilateral naval drills being held in the South China Sea by the Indian and Singaporean Navies.

Scarborough Shoal, which is also claimed by the Philippines and Taiwan, is regarded as a potential powder keg in the strategic waterway.

China "effectively controls" Scarborough Shoal as it has constantly kept its coast guard present at the feature since 2012, according to the transparency initiative.

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