During military exercises around the Paracel Islands, China launched at least four ballistic missiles in the highly contested region. The US Department of Defense said the launches were a threat to peace and security in the region.
Following the missile launch, the Pentagon questioned China’s 2002 commitment to avoiding any provocative activities in the region.
In a statement, the Pentagon said: “Conducting military exercises over disputed territory in the South China Sea is counterproductive to easing tensions and maintaining stability.
“The PRC’s [People’s Republic of China] actions, including missile tests, further destabilise the situation in the South China Sea.
“Such exercises also violate PRC commitments under the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea to avoid activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.”
US accuses Beijing of threatening peace
US increases military presence in South China Sea
Yesterday, the South China Morning Post reported the Communist nation launched an intermediate-range DF-26B ballistic missile and a medium-range DF-21D missile.
The newspaper claimed these missiles were launched after a US spy plane entered a Chinese ‘no fly zone’ in the area where naval drills were taking place.
However, the Pentagon hit back claiming the flight was “within the accepted international rules and regulations governing aircraft flights”.
Earlier this week, Washington placed a series of sanctions on Chinese entities, including the state-owned China Communications Construction Company (CCCC).
READ MORE: Beijing erupts as US imposes sanctions over South China Sea islands
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Visa restrictions will now apply to individuals and businesses “responsible for, or complicity in, either the large-scale reclamation, construction, or militarisation of disputed outposts in the South China Sea, or [the People’s Republic of China’s] use of coercion against Southeast Asian claimants to inhibit their access to offshore resources”.
In the statement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went on to say: “CCCC and its subsidiaries have engaged in corruption, predatory financing, environmental destruction and other abuses across the world.
“The PRC must not be allowed to use CCCC and other state-owned enterprises as weapons to impose an expansionist agenda.”
Blacklisting companies marks the first time the US has levied any type of economic sanction against Chinese entities in the region.
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“The US’s words grossly interfere in China’s internal affairs … it is wholly tyrannical logic and power politics,” said Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian.
“China will take firm measures to uphold the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies and individuals.”
The South China Sea region is a highly disputed territory, facing rival ownership claims from China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan.
Diplomatic relations between the nations, which have laid claim to the islands, are already extremely strained.
China dominance in the region sparks outrage
The islands and surrounding reefs have been the subject of a bitter and long-running territorial dispute.
Over recent months, fears of a World War 3 outbreak were raised after China constructed military bunkers on some of the atolls.
Despite having now claim over any party of the South China Sea, Washington has increased its military presence in the region.
Mr Pompeo has also accused China of dominating the region and called for other nations to counter the Communist state.
China constructed military bunkers on atolls
He wrote on Twitter: “The United States’ policy is crystal clear: the South China Sea is not China’s maritime empire.
“If Beijing violates International law and free nations do nothing, history shows the CCP (Communist Party of China) will simply take more territory.
“China Sea disputes must be resolved through international law.”