China’s military says it monitored and drove away a US warship that had illegally entered waters around the South China Sea.
The military said on Thursday that US guided-missile destroyer Milius illegally intruded into China’s territorial waters, around the Paracel Islands.
“The theater forces will maintain a high state of alert at all times and take all necessary measures to resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and security and peace and stability in the South China Sea,” said Tian Junli, a spokesman for China’s Southern Theater Command.
The incident happened amid growing tensions in the region with the rise of Washington’s military activities in the Asia-Pacific.
The US navy said the Chinese military statement saying it drove away the US destroyer was false.
“The USS Milius is conducting routine operations in the South China Sea and was not expelled. The United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” a statement from the US Navy 7th Fleet said.
The “intrusion” comes after the US launched anti-submarine drills with Canada, India, Japan, and South Korea on Wednesday.
The drill, dubbed Sea Dragon 23, will culminate in more than 270 hours of in-flight training “ranging from tracking simulated targets to the final problem of tracking a US Navy submarine,” the US navy said.
The US also announced earlier this month that it will hold the largest joint military exercises ever with the Philippines next month.
The drill would include, for the first time, live-fire exercises in the South China Sea and a simulated defense of a tiny Philippine island nearly 300 kilometers south of Taiwan.
China has expressed concerns over US drilling in the Asia-Pacific.
President Xi Jinping and his newly appointed Foreign Minister Qin Gang both used strong language last week, condemning the US for preserving a “Cold War mentality.”
The US navy regularly sends its warships to what Beijing regards as its territorial waters, but Washington calls them freedom of navigation operations.
The fresh muscle-flexing by the US comes after President Xi paid a high-profile visit to Russia, signing an agreement with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to bring their ties into a “new era” of cooperation.
The talks were intended to cement the “no limits” partnership the two leaders announced last February.
A joint statement said Washington is undermining global stability and NATO is barging into the Asia-Pacific region.