WASHINGTON/BEIJING -- The U.S. Navy plans to continue patrolling waters claimed by China in the South China Sea, aiming to curb Beijing's maritime advances.
The Lanzhou, a guided-missile destroyer, and the Taizhou, a patrol boat, warned a U.S. destroyer traveling within 12 nautical miles of islands built by China, Chinese defense ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said Tuesday evening. The Chinese ships apparently followed the destroyer.
Future patrols likely will involve the USS Lassen, which passed by Subi and Mischief reefs in the Spratly Islands on Tuesday. It will be accompanied by an escort including a P-8A anti-submarine patrol plane to monitor the Chinese military's response. The destroyer is stationed at the U.S. naval base at Yokosuka in Japan.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that U.S. operations in the South China Sea will continue for the next several weeks to months. The patrols are routine activities with a basis in international law, a U.S. Defense Department official told The Nikkei. The official said Washington opposes countries making excessive claims of maritime sovereignty, indicating that it will not back down in the face of threats from Beijing.
The ship's actions "threatened China's sovereignty and security interests" and "endangered regional peace and stability," Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters Tuesday. "We will keep a close eye on what is happening in the relevant waters and airspace and take all necessary measures as needed."