US sends warship to ‘build relationships’ with angry China
In what marks the first appearance by an American navy ship in China since the ruling by an arbitration panel, a US directed missile destroyer reached the northern Chinese port of Qingdao today.
After the arbitration panel ruled against Beijing’s expansive South China Sea maritime claims, the heat between China and the US has only went up.
Post its arrival in the home port of China's northern fleet, the USS Benfold held a signals exercise with the Chinese Navy.
Speaking briefly to media, Cmdr. Justin L Harts said the visit aimed to "build relationships" with counterparts from the Chinese Navy, but referred questions on tensions in the South China Sea to Pacific Command in Hawaii.
Admiral Scott Swift, the top US naval officer in Asia, plans to meet the media Tuesday in Qingdao.
China rejected last month's ruling by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration in a case initiated by the Philippines, and refused to take part in the arbitration. It has strongly criticized the US for encouraging its treaty partner in taking legal action and calling for Beijing to respect the ruling.
Last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the US, Japan and Australia were "fanning the flames" of regional tensions after they released a joint statement urging China not to construct military outposts or reclaim land in the disputed waters.
Since the ruling, China has repeatedly reasserted its historical claim to the virtually the entire strategically vital water body, its islands, reefs, plentiful fish stocks and other resources. It's also begun flying air patrols, with one announced on Saturday featuring bomber and fighter aircraft, in the airspace around the Spratly Islands, Scarborough Shoal and adjacent areas.
Five other governments also hold territorial claims in the South China Sea.
(With AP inputs)