US commander says sailing past Chinese isles not a threat

The China Post
Date: November 3, 2015
By: ROBERT BURNS and CHRISTOPHER BODEEN

The U.S. Navy’s challenge last week to China’s sovereignty claims in the South China Sea was not

AP - In this Sept. 17 photo, Adm. Harry B. Harris, Jr., U.S. Navy Commander, U.S. Pacific Command walks past a photograph showing an island that China is building on the Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea, as the prepares to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on maritime security strategy in the Asia-Pacific region.
AP – In this Sept. 17 photo, Adm. Harry B. Harris, Jr., U.S. Navy Commander, U.S. Pacific Command walks past a photograph showing an island that China is building on the Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea, as the prepares to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on maritime security strategy in the Asia-Pacific region.

designed as a military threat, the head of U.S. Pacific military forces said Tuesday in a mostly upbeat speech about prospects for preventing U.S.-China disputes from escalating to conflict.

Speaking in the Chinese capital, Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. cited a recent statement by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter that the international order “faces challenges from Russia and, in a different way, from China, with its ambiguous maritime claims,” including Beijing’s claim to nearly all of the South China Sea.

However, Harris said the decision to send the USS Lassen, a guided-missile destroyer, into the South China Sea last week near Subi Reef, within the 12-nautical-mile (22-kilometer) territorial limit claimed by China, was meant to demonstrate the principle of freedom of navigation.

“I truly believe that these routine operations should never be construed as a threat to any nation,” Harris said, according to his prepared remarks. “These operations serve to protect the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law.”

China protested the Lassen patrol, calling it a “deliberate provocation,” and sent two warships to shadow the U.S. vessel and issue warnings. Although China labeled the action illegal, international law allows warships to transit other countries’ territorial seas under the principle of “innocent passage.”     [FULL  STORY]

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