China sends military towards U.S. Navy challenge at sea as ties put to test

Date: 1/22/2019
By: Tom O'Connor

The Chinese armed forces dispatched warships and warplanes to intercept two U.S. Navy vessels that entered the disputed waters of the South China Sea in the latest confrontation between the two powers over trade ties and Beijing's jurisdiction over other contested territories, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

In a statement Friday issued by the Chinese People's Liberation Army, Southern Theater Command spokesperson Sen. Col. Li Huamin reacted to the recent presence of Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer near the Spratly Islands and Paracel Islands. The two South China Sea land formations were the subject of international disputes, but Beijing claimed exclusive rights to them.

"The Chinese PLA sent ships and aircraft to conduct the whole-process monitoring and verification on the two US warships and warned them to leave," the statement said, saying Li has accused the U.S. of trying "to stir up trouble in the South China Sea under the pretext of freedom of navigation."

"He urged the U.S. side to stop such provocative acts immediately so as to avoid unexpected incidents," the official release added. "Li reiterated that China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and adjacent waters. No matter what tricks the U.S. vessels and aircraft may play, the Chinese military is determined and has the ability to safeguard the national sovereignty and security and maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea."