China criticized the U.S. after an American warship sailed in disputed waters in the South China Sea, underscoring lingering military tensions between the nations.
The appearance of the U.S.S. Gabrielle Giffords near the Second Thomas Shoal on Monday “seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security,” according to a statement from the Chinese military.
The littoral combat ship “undermined regional peace and stability,” the military added, “demonstrating that the U.S. is the biggest threat to peace and stability in the South China Sea.”
The U.S. Pacific Fleet didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The U.S. says its naval vessels ply international waters.
While a meeting in the U.S. last month between President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping helped stabilize overall ties, the two nations remain at odds over American military activity.
In October, the U.S. and China each released video footage they said showed provocative or unprofessional actions by military craft in and around the South China Sea, the body of water that Beijing claims mostly as its own.
The Second Thomas Shoal is the site of recent tense encounters between Chinese and Philippine vessels over a World War II-era ship that Manila placed in the shoal more than two decades ago. The Philippines said that move was in response to China’s occupation of nearby reef.
In late November, the U.S. Seventh Fleet and units from the Philippines’ armed forces conducted a military cooperation activity in the South China Sea that included U.S.S. Gabrielle Giffords and aimed at “preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the U.S. Navy said.
The Philippines’ coast guard said Sunday that it monitored more than 135 Chinese “maritime militia” vessels around the Whitsun Reef, which is just west of the Second Thomas Shoal.
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