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China scolds U.S. for South China Sea 'provocation'

Beijing said that its navy had deployed two vessels: Lanzhou, a missile destroyer and Taizhou, a patrol boat, to warn the U.S. ship away from waters claimed by China.

By Elizabeth Shim
China scolds U.S. for South China Sea 'provocation'
U.S. President Barack Obama and President XI Jinping of China participate in an arrival ceremony during an official State visit on the South Lawn of the White House on Sept. 25. Xi has said China is not pursuing militarization of disputed islands in the South China Sea, and on Tuesday issued a warning after a U.S. navy vessel sailed within 12 nautical miles of Subi reef, where land reclamation and construction is in progress. Pool photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI | License Photo

BEIJING, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- China called in the U.S. ambassador to Beijing on Tuesday evening, after a Navy destroyer sailed into waters in the South China Sea claimed by Beijing.

Zhang Yesui, China's deputy foreign minister, told Ambassador Max Baucus that the United States should cease "threatening Chinese sovereignty and security interests," The New York Times reported.

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Zhang also said sending the USS Lassen, a guided missile destroyer, to an area that was within 12 nautical miles of Subi reef was "an irresponsible act," China's state media network CCTV reported.

In a separate statement issued Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said, "China will firmly react to this deliberate provocation," and that Beijing "will not condone any action that undermines China's security."

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Beijing said its navy had deployed two vessels: Lanzhou, a missile destroyer, and Taizhou, a patrol boat to warn the U.S. ship out of waters claimed by China.

The United States' dispatch of the USS Lassen had been planned weeks in advance, in what Washington has called an exercise of the right to freedom of navigation in international waters.

But on Tuesday China's Foreign Ministry called the move illegal. The Lassen, meanwhile, has been heading back to its base in Yokosuka, Japan, according to an unidentified Pentagon official who spoke to The Times on the condition of anonymity.

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The Navy destroyer had sailed within 12 nautical miles of Subi reef, where Beijing has built an artificial island. Satellite images have shown China has used large-scale dredging to reclaim land over live coral reefs, and construction on a runway has begun, although Chinese President Xi Jinping has said China is not pursuing militarization of the islands.

Andrew S. Erickson, an associate professor at the China Maritime Studies Institute at the U.S. Naval War College in Rhode Island, said China is not entitled to a 12-nautical-mile territorial limit, according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The reefs are situated at a low-tide elevation, meaning beyond a 500-meter safety zone ships and aircraft are allowed to operate without consultation or permission.

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