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Admiral Accuses Beijing of Militarising S China Sea After US Naval Encroachment

© AP Photo / Li Gang/XinhuaIn this 12 April, 2018 photo released by Xinhua News Agency, the Liaoning aircraft carrier is accompanied by navy frigates and submarines conducting an exercises in the South China Sea
In this 12 April, 2018 photo released by Xinhua News Agency, the Liaoning aircraft carrier is accompanied by navy frigates and submarines conducting an exercises in the South China Sea - Sputnik International
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In February, the Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed dissatisfaction with US vessels entering waters near the Spratly Islands, an archipelago in the South China Sea that Beijing continues to regard as its “indisputable sovereignty”, without authorisation.

Admiral Philip Davidson, the commander of US Indo-Pacific Command, claimed on Thursday that 2018 has seen an increase in Chinese military activity in the South China Sea.

“It’s building, it’s not reducing in any sense of the word. There has been more activity with ships, fighters and bombers over the last year than in previous years, absolutely," Davidson said.

READ MORE: US Military Mulls Base Deployment Near South China Sea — Adm Davidson

He argued that this activity poses a hazard to trade, "commercial activity and financial information that flows on cables under the South China Sea”.

Davidson declined to elaborate on whether the number of US freedom of navigation patrols would increase in connection with China’s increased activity in the area.

At the same time, he stressed Washington’s drive to remain engaged, touting the US as an “enduring Pacific power”.

READ MORE: China Deploys 'Ship-Killer' Missiles in Wake of US Ship's South China Sea Tour

His remarks come after Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying blamed last month US vessels for illegally entering waters near the Spratly Islands, an archipelago in the South China Sea that Beijing continues to regard as its "indisputable sovereignty”.

Hua stressed that Beijing respected freedom of navigation in the South China Sea but would not tolerate the use of this freedom as a pretext for undermining the country's sovereignty and security.

"We strongly call on the US party to immediately stop these provocative actions […] The Chinese party will take all necessary measures to resolutely defend its sovereignty and security as well as the stability in the South China Sea," the spokeswoman underscored.

READ MORE: Beijing Sends Warships to Warn US Over Its 'Provocation' in S China Sea

In this Aug. 31, 2018, file photo provided by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine Navy ship BRP Gregorio del Pilar is seen at center right after it ran aground during a routine patrol, on Aug. 29, in the vicinity of Half Moon Shoal, which is called Hasa Hasa in the Philippines, off the disputed Spratlys Group of islands in the South China Sea - Sputnik International
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US Warship Comes Near Beijing-Reclaimed South China Sea Islands - Report
According to Beijing, two US Navy destroyers sailed near the Spratly Islands without permission from the Chinese government earlier on February. Chinese vessels issued a warning for the warships and demanded that they immediately leave the area.

Beijing controls the vast majority of islands, reefs and shoals in the South China Sea, and is building up an array of artificial islands in a bid to further shore up its claims which are questioned by the Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Taiwan, among other countries.

Beijing insists on negotiating the issue at the regional level, while the US has initiated naval freedom of navigation missions to contest China's claims.

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