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Angry China summons US envoy over warship in South China Sea

October 28, 2015 18:37 IST

China on Wednesday said the US' naval and air incursions in the artificial islands in the South China Sea will be counter-productive leading to "miscalculation" and "crisis", as Beijing summoned the American ambassador to protest the US Navy's sailing of a warship into the disputed waters.

China resorted to high pitch protests by summoning US Ambassador Max Baucus on Tuesday to protest against American warship USS Lassen, a guided missile destroyer, sailing close to the artificial islands being built by China in the disputed South China Sea.

China's foreign ministry said on its website on Wednesday that Executive Vice Minister Zhang Yesui told Max Bacaus that the US had acted in defiance of repeated Chinese objections and had threatened China's sovereignty and security.

Chinese officials are concerned over assertions by US officials that Washington will send more ships through the area, challenging Beijing's claims of sovereignty.

"China has indisputable sovereignty over Nansha (Spratly) islands adjacent waters. The US vessel sailed into the SCS and relevant waters without permission jeopardising the security of personnel and facilities of the relevant island," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told media briefing in Beijing on Wednesday.

"It is a provocation and violates the UN law of the sea and as well as China's domestic law," he said.

Notwithstanding the Chinese allegations of a provocative behaviour after the US warship entered the disputed South China Sea, a US official has said in Washington that US Navy will send more warships to sail close to the artificial islands built by Beijing in the disputed waters.

The US move has caused concerns among Chinese officials as it exposed Beijing's limitations.

China and the US in September signed two documents on "notification of military crisis" and "encounters in the air" in a bid to avoid military conflicts caused by miscalculation over the seas, state-run Xinhua news agency said.

Referring to recent statement by vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission Fan Changlong at a security forum earlier this month that China will not use force recklessly, even when it comes to issues related to territory and sovereignty, a Xinhua commentary said that it does not mean China will renounce the use of force.

"Misinterpretation by the US may cause more miscalculation and could lead to crisis," it said.

"Both the Chinese and US people should not forget the mid-air collision between a US reconnaissance plane and a Chinese fighter jet in China's Hainan Island airspace in 2001, during which a Chinese pilot was killed," it said.

"That tragedy was caused by the prolonged adoption of a cold-war mentality by the US, which led it to monitor China's every activity. Such incidents may take place again if the US does not discard its stereotypes of China, though the results may become more unpredictable," it said.

China claims sovereignty over almost the whole of the South China Sea, which transit some of the busiest sea lanes in the world and is believed to sit atop a vast amount of oil wealth.

Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan contest China's claims of sovereignty over all of South China Sea and receive security support from the US.

Zhu Feng, a professor of international security at Nanjing University, told the Global Times that "the dispatch of the US warship was predictable since the US had reiterated the plan several times. The US had to follow through with its action to maintain credibility with its allies."

The US move is more of a probe of China's reaction rather than a showdown, Zhu said, adding that China needs to have a well-considered plan in response, such as getting ready to monitor US warships or planes, or driving them off when necessary.

But China should move carefully to avoid military conflict, he said.

An expert at the Academy of Military Science said the passage of the USS Lassen is the least serious move available to the US, compared with other options like conducting military drills and joint passage of Japanese and Philippine warships.

China also made a minimal response, he said.

Unlike the intense relationship between the US and former Soviet Union, the US is also worried that radical military actions would harm Sino-US cooperation, a research fellow at the Chinese Naval Research Institute added.

The research fellow suggested setting up a "security alert zone" by China in the controversial waters in order to prevent further conflicts.

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