A satellite image of Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea indicated Beijing was constructing airstrips in a land reclamation project that is taking place across at least three zones of the disputed islands. China warned the United States on Thursday against future "provocations" after a U.S. naval ship sailed near the reef. File Photo courtesy of CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative / DigitalGlobe
HONG KONG, Oct. 30 (UPI) -- A top Chinese naval commander told his U.S. counterpart that Beijing would not tolerate "dangerous and provocative acts" after the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen entered waters near areas of China's land reclamation in the South China Sea.
In a video conference call, Adm. Wu Shengli of the Chinese navy told Adm. John Richardson that Beijing is "deeply concerned," and that "such dangerous and provocative acts have threatened China's sovereignty and security and harmed regional peace and stability," state news agency Xinhua reported on Friday.
Wu said if the warnings are not taken into consideration, China would "have to take all necessary measures to safeguard sovereignty and security," meaning a military response, or even a brief war, could follow the next "provocation."
On Tuesday, the U.S. naval ship had sailed within a 12-mile radius that China unilaterally established as it began land reclamation activities on the disputed Spratly Islands. Beijing has repeatedly brushed aside contesting claims from the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan, and in September Chinese President Xi Jinping said the islands are not being militarized.
Recent satellite images, however, indicated Beijing was constructing airstrips after pouring sand on live coral reefs in a land reclamation project that is taking place across at least three zones of the disputed islands.
Wu said Thursday China had repeatedly expressed its opposition to U.S. entry into its "sovereign" waters, but the warnings had not been heeded. Chinese ships warned the destroyer on Tuesday but when the alerts were ignored, Wu said the navy became "deeply concerned," pointing out freedom of navigation is not at issue, despite China's activities in the South China Sea.
TIME reported the conversation ended on a slightly positive note, and that both sides agreed to continue discussion over an issue that has escalated tensions between the world's two largest economies, although the United States is not a claimant.