US warships sail close to disputed islands in South China Sea, officials say

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Two U.S. Navy warships sailed close to South China Sea islands claimed by China soon after Beijing landed a nuclear-capable bomber and deployed missiles there, defense officials told Fox News on Sunday,

The U.S.S Higgins, a guided-missile destroyer, and the U.S.S. Antietam, a missile cruiser, carried out “freedom of navigation” operations close to the Paracel Island chain, like Woody Island, exactly where Beijing has operated an airbase considering that the 1990s.

“U.S. forces operate in the Asia-Pacific area on a everyday basis, like in the South China Sea. All operations are carried out in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law enables,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Logan stated in a statement to Fox News.

The patrol close to the contested island came days soon after the Pentagon disinvited Beijing from participating in a big multinational exercising subsequent month following reports the nation was once again secretly beefing up its military operation and throughout an ongoing trade dispute.

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The satellite photos taken on Could 20 by Imagesat International show two new launchers on the northern shore of the Island, subsequent to a radar method, all covered by a camouflage net.

 (ImageSat International)

China final took component in the bi-annual Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercising in 2014 and 2016, which dates back to the 1970s.  

US DISINVITES CHINA FROM MILITARY Workout routines Soon after Nation CONTINUES ‘MILITARIZATION’ OF DISPUTED ISLAND

The move came soon after Fox News exclusively reported that the Chinese military had deployed yet another sophisticated surface-to-air missile method to one particular of its contested islands in the South China Sea.

Satellite photos taken final Sunday by ImageSat International  show two new launchers on the northern shore of the Island, subsequent to a radar method, all covered by a camouflage net.           

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ISI analysts think the satellite photos give additional proof that China is increasingly “militarizing” its islands in the South China Sea, ramping up tensions in the area that may possibly undermine its strategic stability.

 (ImageSat International)

The net is generally utilised to conceal stealthy activities that may possibly interest other armies or safety teams. It also tends to make it tougher to determine what surface-to-air missile method it is. But ISI analysts feel it is equivalent to the HQ-9 method that was deployed back in February 2016, and was initial reported by Fox News. The HQ-9 air defense method, has a variety of 125 miles, which would pose threat to any airplanes, civilians or military, flying close by.

The U.S. vessels’ maneuvering operations on Sunday had been carried out close to the islands of Tree, Lincoln, Triton and Woody, according to Reuters.

Woody Island and the Paracel Islands are not component of China’s man-produced islands constructed atop former reefs in the Spratly chain additional south.

CHINESE LAND BOMBER IN SOUTH CHINA SEA, POTENTIALLY ESCALATING TENSIONS More than DISPUTED ZONE

The South China Sea remains a contested region, with surrounding nations – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam – disputing China’s territorial claims.

Earlier this month, China riled Vietnam and the Philippines by landing bombers on a disputed set of islands in the South China Sea.

Pentagon officials told Fox News that U.S. forces operate in the area on a everyday basis.

“We conduct routine and typical Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs), as we have accomplished in the previous and will continue to do in the future,” Logan stated.

Fox News’ Yonat Friling and Jennifer Griffin contributed to this report.

Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Division producer for Fox News Channel. You can adhere to him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews