Beijing has declared that it will take "necessary measures" to protect Chinese sovereignty, after a US Navy destroyer sailed within a 12-mile global limit claimed by China in the South China Sea, APA reports quoting Sputnik.
China Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Hopper sailed within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough Shoal "without gaining permission from the Chinese government".
The Chinese defense ministry said that their ship "immediately took actions to identify and verify the USA ship and drove it away by warning", per Channel News Asia.
China's defence ministry said in a separate statement that a Chinese frigate "immediately took actions to identify and verify the USA ship and drove it away by warning" it.
The spokesman added that Beijing "firmly opposes" the use of the global freedom of navigation agreement as a reason to travel through the disputed waters, suggesting that the United States must "correct its mistakes", cited by Reuters.
In a bid to question China's claims over the area, the U.S. has been pressing naval ships and air force planes frequently to pass through the area, through which trillions of dollars of worldwide trade takes place to assert freedom of navigation.
Federer begins defence of Australian Open title with win; Djokovic advances
Novak Djokovic survived a gruelling fitness test under the brutal Melbourne sun to stay alive at the Australian Open on Thursday. On his return to the sport after a long absence, he said: "It feels so great to be back here, to be back on the tennis court".
China's defence ministry dismissed those claims on Saturday, saying "the situation in the South China Sea has steadily stabilised", in comments attributed to spokesman Wu Qian.
China, which has been reinforcing its hold on the disputed SCS with military installations in the shoals and reclaimed islands, claims sovereignty over nearly all of it.
Scarborough Shoal, a triangular atoll located some 220 kilometers west of the Philippine main island Luzon, was effectively seized by China in 2012. "We are continuing regular FONOPs, as we have routinely done in the past and will continue to do in the future".
FONOP is the military's term for freedom of navigation operations. Beijing considers any U.S. patrols within 12 nautical miles of the islands as an intrusion into its territorial waters.
Beijing claims virtually the entire South China Sea, a vital shipping route and a rich fishing ground with possibly large oil and natural gas deposits. "Those are excessive maritime claims that FONOPs are meant to challenge".
The Philippines has sparred with China for decades over what it says is aggressive conduct at the Scarborough Shoal. Nicole Schwegman, a U.S. Pacific Fleet spokeswoman, said in an email. "Doing so would put at risk its improved relations with the Philippines under Duterte".