China Upbeat on US Trade Talks, But S. China Sea Tensions Weigh

China Upbeat on US Trade Talks, But S. China Sea Tensions Weigh

China Upbeat on US Trade Talks, But S. China Sea Tensions Weigh

The destroyers conducted the passage, illustrating the continuing US military presence in the area, to which China routinely has objected.

Monday's operation was carried out "to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by worldwide law", Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the US Navy's 7th Fleet, said.

Doss confirmed the sailings to CNN.

"All operations are designed in accordance with global law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever worldwide law allows", said Doss. The ships sailed close by Mischief Reef, where China has built an airbase on reclaimed land, and the adjacent Second Thomas Shoal, which is occupied by the Philippines. "That is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe". In January, the destroyer USS McCampbell challenged China's claims to the Paracel Islands.

The two sides are trying to hammer out a deal ahead of a March 1 deadline when USA tariffs on US$200 billion (S$272 billion) worth of Chinese imports are scheduled to increase to 25 per cent from 10 per cent. Mr Lighthizer, named by President Donald Trump to spearhead the process after agreeing a 90-day truce in the trade war with Beijing, has been a strong proponent of pushing China to end what the U.S. views as unfair trade practices, including stealing intellectual property and forcing United States companies to share their technology with Chinese firms.

"We conduct routine and regular freedom of navigation operations as we have done in the past and will continue to in the future", he said. The United States has criticised China for militarising the islands by constructing long runways used by jet fighters and deploying anti-aircraft missiles.

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"U.S. Forces operate in the Indo-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea", Doss said in a statement. In late September, the USS Decatur also sailed within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson reefs in the Spratly Islands as part of a similar freedom of navigation operation.

China has criticized both encounters. "The Chinese side expresses strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition", Hua said.

In October, the destroyer USS Decatur had to maneuver to avoid a collision with a Chinese warship that came within 45 yards of its bow.

The United States and China are heading back to the negotiating table to try and iron out their differences on trade.

Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan have competing claims in the region.

If the sides can not reach an agreement by March 1, when a 90-day tariffs truce ends, the Trump administration has said it will raise tariffs on US$200 billion of Chinese goods from 10 per cent to 25 per cent.

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