China’s Foreign Ministry has “serious concerns” about the U.S. decision to send warships to patrol in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Despite the criticism, the Navy is planning more patrols, putting itself at the center of one of the most complicated and contentious territorial disputes in the world.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, the Chinese government has been creating what one naval commander called “the great wall of sand,” a series of man-made islands that could potentially hold military facilities.
Chinese officials claim the islands are meant to improve the living conditions for personnel stationed in the South China Sea, rather than reinforce territorial claims. Nevertheless, the U.S. says that at least one of the islands has a airfield, which is now reportedly half-paved. Likewise, the facilities are being built in the center of the Spratly Islands, where several nations claim partial or full ownership.
Editor James Hardy at the Jane’s Asia Pacific told CNN it is “a methodical, well-planned campaign to create a chain of air and sea capable fortresses across the center of the Spratly Islands chain.”
The government in Washington has tried asking China to stop building the islands, according to the Wall Street Journal, but so far those pleas have not been effective.
As a result, the government released a report that it’s considering deploying more warships and surveillance aircraft to prevent aggressive island claims.
The report drew an immediate reaction from Beijing, according to the state-run Xinhua news service.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying claims the government has “serious concern” over the American plan.
Although she says China has always advocated for freedom of navigation, that “does not give one country’s military aircraft and ships free access to another country’s territorial waters and airspace.”
CNN, citing a Navy statement from Wednesday, says that at least one warship has already started the patrol. The USS Fort Worth, one of the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), recently arrived in the Philippines for resupply after a week of patrolling around the Spratly Islands.
In a news release, Captain Fred Kacher explained the patrol is simply the first of many.
“As part of our strategic rebalance to bring our newest and most capable Navy platforms to the Indo-Asia-Pacific, (the LCSs have) a regular presence in Southeast Asia. Routine operations like the one Fort Worth just completed in the South China Sea will be the new normal as we welcome four LCSs to the region in the coming years.”
The patrols will put U.S. forces in the center of the conflicting territorial claims, which involve China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan, and Malaysia.
During the Forth Worth’s patrol through the island chain, it encountered multiple Chinese warships. At one point, it was even trailed by the missile-guided frigate, the Yancheng.
Still, U.S. officials reported that China’s warships conducted themselves professionally. The disputed claims contain fertile fishing grounds and untapped undersea resources.
[Image Credit: Getty Images]