"We urge the United States to immediately cease this kind of provocation… We have already made a presentation to the American side in this regard", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said, commenting on the US move.
According to Lu, the USS McCampbell entered the waters of the Xisha Islands, the Chinese name for the Paracels, without Beijing’s permission. In response, China sent a ship that sent a warning to the US destroyer and demanded that it leave the area.
Lu urged Washington to halt such provocative actions, stressing that Beijing reserved the right to take all necessary measures to protect its security and sovereignty.
Earlier in the day, US Pacific Fleet spokeswoman Rachel McMarr said as quoted by Reuters that the operation was not about any one country or to make a political statement.
Guided missile destroyer USS McCampbell has carried out a "freedom of navigation" operation within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Island chain, "to challenge excessive maritime claims" (of #China), according @USPacificFleet. pic.twitter.com/xXEwXU2Fwa— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) 7 января 2019 г.
Earlier it was reported that Chinese authorities and members of an American government delegation on 7 January officially began negotiations in Beijing to eliminate bilateral contradictions in the field of trade and economy.
— Mark A. (@360unfiltered) 7 января 2019 г.
For many years, the South China Sea has been a zone of confrontation due to territorial claims by a number of Asian states on the Spratly archipelago, the Paracel Islands and surrounding waters. Vietnam, China, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines are involved in the dispute over the ownership of these territories.
According to estimates, significant reserves of oil and mineral raw materials may be concentrated on the shelf of these islands.