US will fly and sail everywhere
The US responded by saying that the USS Stethem acted in line with international law and the US “Freedom of Navigation” program and that the US Air Force and Navy would continue to fly and sail where they deemed fit.
A State Department official told RIA that “the US forces in the Asia-Pacific region, including the South-China Sea, act on a daily basis fully in line with international law and will fly, sail and act wherever it is allowed by international law.”
It is not the first time the US has tested China’s patience by sending its naval ships into the disputed waters. As recently as on May 22, the USS Dewey sailed within 22 kilometers of Mischief Reef — a man-made Chinese island in the Spratly (Xisha) Island chain.
US Pacific Fleet Commander, Admiral Harry Harris, then said that it was a signal to Beijing about the impermissibility of its actions on disputed territories.
"Fake islands should not be believed by real people," Harris told Fox News. "China is using its military and economic power to erode the rules-based international order," he added.
Admiral Harris was echoed by his boss, Defense Secretary James Mattis, who, speaking at a regional security summit in Singapore, did not rule out a possible military confrontation with China in the future.
Also in May, Chinese fighter jets reportedly came within 100 feet of US anti-submarine and maritime surveillance P-3 Orion aircraft over the South China Sea.
Monday’s incident in the South China Sea added to the long list of spats between Beijing and Washington.
Beijing views Taiwan as its inalienable part and the Chinese Foreign Ministry has warned Washington about the negative impact its planned sale of arms to Taipei could have on bilateral relations.
The South China Sea area, where Xisha/Paracel Islands are located, is a disputed region claimed by Brunei, China, Malaysia, Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam, as it is believed that it has vast energy resources.
Chinese authorities claim 90 percent of the area and have repeatedly said that the country's activities in the region are China's sovereign right.