US destroyer challenges China's claims in South China Sea

Philippines offers North Korea ASEAN partner status

China has protested against a United States Navy warship sailed in the South China Sea.

The United States does not recognize China's claim of sovereignty in that location and regards the area as worldwide waters.

If all-out war does break out between the U.S. and the hermit state, long-time Kim Jong-un ally China will be forced to pick sides.

The US' fonop comes at a time when tensions are running high in the Asia-Pacific region.

China has territorial disputes with its neighbours over the area.

An angry Beijing warned off a USA warship after it sailed near an artificial island in the disputed South China Sea in the latest operation aimed at loosening the Asian giant's grip on the strategic waterway.

Quoting Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said the USA move was part of its right to freedom of navigation. Nicole Schwegman said all Navy operations "are conducted in accordance with worldwide law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever global law allows".

Experts and officials have criticised President Barack Obama for potentially reinforcing China's claims by sticking to innocent passage, in which a warship effectively recognised a territorial sea by crossing it speedily without stopping. "It is clear who is not willing to see stability in the South China Sea and who is the major factor pushing for militarization in the South China Sea". The operations, according to anonymous officials, were meant to challenge China's claim on trade routes now contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. "We told them we are a U.S. (ship) conducting routine operations in global waters".

Although China opposes inclusion of the sea disputes in global conferences, partly to prevent the U.S. and other Western governments from intervening, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Japan's new top diplomat, Taro Kono, expressed concern over aggressive actions in the waters.

China's "nine-dash line" - its claimed territorial waters that extend hundreds of miles to the south and east of its island province of Hainan - abut its neighbors' claims and, in some cases, encroach upon them.

"About 45 islands are occupied by relatively small numbers of military forces from China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. Brunei claims an exclusive economic zone over this area", the CIA Factbook says.

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