China: US warships passing close to artificial islands ‘provocative and risky action’

The Chinese government is “seriously concerned” about the remarks of United States officials, during the past US Senate Armed Service Committee hearing on Maritime Security Strategy in the Asia-Pacific. US officials state that US military will continue to conduct patrols in West Philippine Sea and the US Navy should pass close to fake islands created by China in West Philippine Sea. The foreign ministry of China reiterated that Spratly Islands belong to Beijing.

“China, like the US, champions navigation freedom in the South China Sea, but opposes any country’s attempt to challenge China’s territorial sovereignty and security under the pretext of safeguarding navigation freedom,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei said in a press conference today. “China urges relevant party to exercise caution in its words and deeds, respect China’s territorial sovereignty and security interests, and refrain from taking any provocative and risky action.”

US Pacific Command (USPACOM) commander Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr. said during the September 17 US senate hearing, “Pacific Command’s forces will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, while continuing to strengthen the relationships and rule of law that enabled the peaceful rise of every nation in the region”, this is “to safeguard freedom of the seas, deter conflict, and promote adherence to international law and standards.”

The top American military official in the Pacific noted that “while no country appears to desire military conflict, tactical miscalculations can lead to strategic consequences.”

“The United States does not take sides on issues of sovereignty with respect to these territorial disputes, but we do insist that all maritime claims be derived from naturally-formed land features in accordance with customary international law, as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention,” Admiral Harris said.

US Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Republican Senator John McCain said “the best sign of that commitment (upholding the freedom of the seas) would be to conduct freedom of navigation operations within 12 nautical miles of China’s reclaimed islands in the South China Sea.”