China upbeat on USA trade talks, but South China Sea tensions weigh

Remigio Civitarese
Febbraio 11, 2019

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters that Beijing hopes to see good results from the talks.

The Trump administration is demanding far-reaching changes from China to address commercial practices that it says are deeply unfair, including theft of American intellectual property and myriad barriers that U.S. and other foreign companies face in the Chinese domestic market. The US destroyers sailed near the Chinese Nansha Islands as part of what Washington calls freedom of navigation operations.

Hua's warning came as both sides were in Beijing to prepare for a new round of talks this week.

The alleged incursion by two USA warships into the internationally disputed waters of the South China Sea was the second such move within five weeks.

China says the construction is necessary for defence, and it was the U.S. that was responsible for tensions by sending warships and military planes close to islands Beijing claims.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet confirmed the FONOP Monday afternoon with worldwide media, stating that the operation was conducted "to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by global law".

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the two guided-missile destroyers travelled within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands.

"The relevant actions of the U.S. warships violated Chinese sovereignty, and undermined peace, security, and order in the relevant sea areas", Hua said.

"China has always respected and safeguarded freedom of navigation and flight based on worldwide laws in the South China Sea, but resolutely opposes any country falsely using these harm the sovereignty and security of coastal countries".

Speaking about the most recent operation, Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet, told CNN that the action was meant to "to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by worldwide law".

It comes at a time of increasing tensions between the United States and China over an ongoing trade war. The operation was the second in the South China Sea reported by the US Navy this year. "China urges the United States to immediately stop such provocative actions and earnestly respect the efforts by regional countries to maintain the peace and stability of the South China Sea".

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