0738 GMT June 16, 2019
China’s Defense Ministry, in a statement released on Wednesday, announced that Defense Minister Chang Wanquan had told his US counterpart Ash Carter in the Malaysian capital city of Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday that Washington should not adopt any measures that threaten Beijing’s sovereignty and security interests.
On October 27, the warship USS Lassen sailed in waters near the Spratly Islands, known as the Nansha Islands in Chinese, which is a disputed group of hundreds of reefs, islets, atolls and islands in the South China.
Also on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswomanو Hua Chunyingو warned the United States against further provocations in the South China Sea.
“We urge the United States to... not take any action that threatens China’s sovereignty and security,” she said at a regular press briefing in Beijing.
Her remarks came in response to Monday comments by US Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, who said there would be more demonstrations of what he termed the US military’s right to freedom of navigation.
Hua said China has always respected and safeguarded the freedom of navigation and overflights by various countries in accordance with international law, but strongly opposes any country using this as an excuse to damage China’s sovereignty and security.
She underscored that China is firmly determined to maintain its territorial sovereignty, security and legitimate maritime interests.
Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr., the head of US Pacific military forces, has said that the US Navy’s patrol in the South China Sea was not designed as a military threat.
The decision to send the USS Lassen was meant to demonstrate the principle of freedom of navigation, he claimed on Tuesday, adding, “I truly believe that these routine operations should never be construed as a threat to any nation.”
China has on different occasions asserted its sovereignty over the South China Sea. However, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims over the waters.
Washington has sided with China’s rivals in the territorial dispute, with Beijing accusing the US of meddling in the regional issues and deliberately stirring up tensions in the South China Sea.