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China claims U.S. destroyer 'driven out' of South China Sea area

China said Tuesday its military warned the USS John S. McCain after it entered waters near the disputed Spratly Islands. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
China said Tuesday its military warned the USS John S. McCain after it entered waters near the disputed Spratly Islands. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 22 (UPI) -- China said its military chased out a U.S. naval destroyer, after the United States said it would continue to assert "navigational rights and freedoms in the Spratly Islands," where Beijing has built an airstrip and other man-made structures.

Chinese military spokesman Tian Junli said Tuesday the People's Liberation Army's southern command deployed ships and aircraft to warn and drive out the USS John S. McCain, Xinhua news agency reported.

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"The Chinese PLA on Tuesday expelled U.S. destroyer USS John S. McCain after it trespassed into China's territorial waters off Nansha Islands in the South China Sea," Tian said, according to Hindustan Times.

"Such actions by the United States have seriously violated China's sovereignty and security and severely undermined peace and stability in the South China Sea."

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On Tuesday the U.S. Navy said in statement the McCain transited through the South China Sea to "uphold the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea."

"Unlawful and sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea pose a serious threat to the freedom of the seas," the U.S. Seventh Fleet said.

"The United States challenges excessive maritime claims around the world regardless of the identity of the claimant."

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The Navy also named China among claimants of the disputed Spratly Islands who "require permission or advance notification before a foreign military vessel engages in 'innocent passage'."

"By engaging in innocent passage without giving prior notification to or asking permission from any of the claimants, the United States challenged the unlawful restrictions imposed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam," the Navy said.

The United States and China are making competing claims only a few days after a U.S. guided-missile destroyer passed through the Taiwan Strait.

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Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong sailed through the strait a day later, according to the South China Morning Post on Tuesday.

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