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Tuesday, October 27, 2015, 22:25

US urged not to ratchet up South China Sea tension

By Agencies

US urged not to ratchet up South China Sea tension
In this May 27, 2014 file photo, the USS Lassen is anchored in Yokosuka near Tokyo. (AP Photo / Koji Sasahara, File)

BEIJING - The Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed "strong discontentment" and "resolute opposition" over a US warship patrol near Zhubi Reef of China's Nansha Islands in the South China Sea on Tuesday.

The United States' actions threaten China's sovereignty and security interests, endanger the safety of personnel and facilities in the reef, and harm regional peace and stability, ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said in a statement. Lu urged the US side to "immediately correct its wrongdoing."

China's Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui summoned US Ambassador Max Baucus on Tuesday to protest against the US naval patrol, Chinese state television said.

Zhang called the US patrol "extremely irresponsible" and urged the United States to cease actions that harm China's sovereignty and security interests, China Central Television reported.

The Chinese navy has warned that further forays by the US naval vessel into the waters claimed by China in the South China Sea may "trigger eventualities."

Chinese navy spokesperson Liang Yang said the Chinese navy monitored, tracked and issued warnings to the USS Lassen. He said China's reaction is necessary, legitimate and professional.

"China's sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters is irrefutable," he said. "The Chinese navy will resolutely perform duties and missions to unswervingly safeguard national sovereignty, maritime rights and interests, and peace and stability in the South China Sea."

The spokesperson said the navy will closely monitor the situation in and above the sea for goings-on that may jeopardize China's national security.

China's Foreign Ministry said the USS Lassen had "illegally" entered waters near islands and reefs in the Nansha Islands without the Chinese government's permission.

"China will resolutely respond to any country's deliberate provocations," the ministry said in a statement.

Lu later said at a daily briefing that if the United States continued to "create tensions in the region," China might conclude it had to "increase and strengthen the building up of our relevant abilities".

"China hopes to use peaceful means to resolve all the disputes, but if China has to make a response then the timing, method and tempo of the response will be made in accordance with China's wishes and needs."

Earlier Tuesday, the US warship USS Lassen illegally entered waters near Zhubi Reef of China's Nansha Islands in the South China Sea without permission of the Chinese government, said Lu.

"If true, we advise the US to think again and before acting, not act blindly or make trouble out of nothing," the foreign ministry quoted Foreign Minister Wang Yi as saying earlier on Tuesday.

The US Navy sent a guided-missile destroyer within 12 nautical miles of artificial islands built by China in the South China Sea on Tuesday, Reuters quoted a US defence official as saying.

The official said the USS Lassen had been sailing near Zhubi and Meiji reefs near the Nansha Islands.

Another official earlier said the ship would likely be accompanied by a US Navy P-8A surveillance plane and possibly P-3 surveillance plane, which have been conducting regular surveillance missions in the region.

Beijing made it clear last month it would "never allow any country" to violate its territorial waters and airspace in the Nansha islands.

The patrols come just weeks ahead of a series of Asia-Pacific summits US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to attend in the second half of November.

Xi told US officials after a meeting with Obama in Washington last month that China had "no intention to militarise" the islands.

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