BEIJING — A U.S. warship sailed near a disputed island in the South China Sea on Sunday in an operation known as “freedom of navigation”. However, China called the move “a serious political and military provocation”.
The freedom of navigation operation, also known as FONOP, is designed to protest against overlapping maritime claims. It was the second operation conducted during the presidency of Donald Trump. In May, the USS Dewey came within six nautical miles of Mischief Reef, where China has constructed a massive military complex.
The incident took place near Triton Island in the Paracel Islands. It is administered by China but also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.
According to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, territorial water is a belt of coastal water extending 12 nautical miles from the baseline of a nation’s coast.
Guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island, implying that the United States does not recognize China’s territorial claims there.
“China strongly urges the U.S. side to immediately stop this kind of provocative action which seriously violates China's sovereignty and puts at risk China's security," China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement.