China's Foreign Ministry warned the U.S on Wednesday against its plans of conducting fresh naval patrols in the disputed South China Sea, saying that Washington should not carry out any action that challenges Beijing's sovereignty and security.
U.S. Navy and Pacific Command leaders are considering freedom of navigation patrols in the waterway by the San Diego-based Carl Vinson carrier strike group, the Navy Times reported Sunday, citing anonymous defense officials. China claims most of the South China Sea and its reclamation work in the region has been heavily criticized by the U.S.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that the U.S., or any other foreign nation, should not stoke any tensions in the South China Sea that have been stabilized after constant hard work between China and Southeast Asia countries.
"We urge the U.S. not to take any actions that challenge China's sovereignty and security," Geng told a regular news briefing, according to Reuters.
The last freedom of navigation operation by the U.S was conducted in October 2016, when it sailed the guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur near the Paracel Islands and within waters claimed by China. The patrols conducted by the U.S. fall under international law, allowing ships with their country’s flags to sail without interference from other nations.
Dave Bennett, a spokesman for Carrier Strike Group One, said future operations of its units have not been discussed so far, and that "the Carl Vinson Strike Group is on a regularly scheduled Western Pacific deployment as part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet-led initiative to extend the command and control functions of the U.S. 3rd Fleet." He added: "U.S. Navy aircraft carrier strike groups have patrolled the Indo-Asia-Pacific regularly and routinely for more than 70 years."
China has blamed the U.S. for heightening tensions in the South China Sea, through which over $5 trillion of maritime trade passes annually. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan also have conflicting claims to the waters.