United States destroyer in South China Sea called 'provocation' by Beijing

John S. Mc Cain at sea

United States destroyer in South China Sea called 'provocation' by Beijing

China has lodged a protest against a U.S. Navy destroyer that challenged Beijing's maritime claims by passing close to the Meiji Reef of the disputed Nansha Islands in the South China Sea, saying that the United States is meddling in the region under the guise of "free navigation".

It is the third time this year that USA ships traveled within 12 nautical miles of land claimed by China, the report said.

After a typhoon washed out the bridge in October past year, China began to undertake reclamation anew on the southern end of North Island and "built a retaining wall around the [2.73 hectares] of new land to prevent further erosion".

North Island of the Paracel Islands, November 11, 2016.

China insists that a much-delayed code of conduct between it and ASEAN members over the disputed sea must not be legally binding, a demand to which Southeast Asian countries have so far acquiesced. "I also wanted to tell you that two years ago, China had already completed the reclamation".

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Cayetano's statement echoed that of Wang, who said China stopped reclamation work in 2015.

AMTI said in its report, "But this is false".

"AMTI previously reported on work at these features, which has continued in recent months", the think tank said.

Tensions escalated a few years ago when China began to build seven reefs, including Mischief, into islands, including three with runways, which the US and China's neighbors fear could be used to project Beijing's military might and potentially obstruct freedom of navigation. China claims almost all of the strategically vital sea, through which Dollars 5 trillion in annual shipping trade passes and is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits.

Attracted by the strategic military location and the prospect of oil, China, Taiwan, Brunei, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam have all laid territorial claim to the Spratly's and have occupied several islands.

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China has expressed today its dissatisfaction and rejection over the publication of Japan " s 2017 Defense White Paper, in which Tokyo is banning China " s activities in the eastern and southern seas.

The Philippines had for many years stood alongside Vietnam as one of the strongest opponents to Chinese expansionism. The significance of the distance of 12 nautical miles derives from the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which generally grants coastal states jurisdiction over seas within 12 nautical miles of the coast.

Under the Duterte government, however, this changed, with the Philippines more and more echoing China's stance, in line with the Philippines pivot towards China under the new leader.

Cayetano had even wanted to exclude any mention of China's land reclamation activities and militarization in a joint communiqué of ASEAN foreign ministers during their meeting in Manila last week.

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