China’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) has accused a US Navy (USN) warship of having entered “without permission” what it claims to be the “adjacent waters of its islands and reefs” in the disputed South China Sea (SCS).
In an MND statement issued on 20 May, Senior Colonel Li Huamin, a spokesperson for the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA’s) Southern Theatre Command, said that Arleigh Burke (Flight IIA)-class guided-missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG 88) had intruded into Chinese-claimed waters but he did not specify the location of the incident.
USN Commander Clay Doss, a spokesperson for the US 7th Fleet, confirmed the sail-by in a statement to US media, pointing out that Preble had conducted a freedom-of-navigation operation (FONOP) that same day by sailing within 12 n miles (22 km) of Scarborough Reef (also known as Scarborough Shoal) to challenge what he described as China’s “excessive maritime claims”, and to “preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law”.
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