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The US Navy has conducted its first freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea under the Trump administration, according to a US official.

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The move comes as Mr Trump is urging China to ratchet up the pressure on North Korea to rein in its missile and nuclear programmes. Some critics had accused the Trump administration of easing the pressure on Beijing over the South China Sea in order to get them to cooperate on Pyongyang. “It will be reassuring for America’s allies to see the resumption of freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea,” said Andrew Shearer, a former Australian national security adviser who is now at CSIS in Washington. “Freedom of navigation in the western Pacific is too important to be traded away for dubious Chinese pledges of cooperation on other issues, even if they are as important as North Korea”. The USS Dewey conducted the operation around Mischief Reef, one of the disputed features in the South China Sea, according to the US official. The action was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. “We operate in the Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea. We operate in accordance with international law. We fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” said Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. “Freedom of navigation is not about any one country, or any one body of water.” The freedom of navigation operation marks the second time in as many weeks that Sino-US military tensions have flared after a period of relative diplomatic calm between the world’s two biggest economies. Last week, the Trump administration made its first formal protest to China’s military, alleging that a Chinese fighter had performed a dangerous “Top Gun” stunt as it shadowed a US Air Force plane over the East China Sea. According to the Pentagon, the Chinese pilot flew his jet upside down near the US “sniffer” aircraft, which is designed to detect atmospheric evidence of nuclear tests. North Korea has conducted a series of ballistic missile tests over recent months but so far refrained nuclear tests during Mr Trump’s first four months in office. A nuclear test would anger both Washington and Beijing and likely lead to the implementation of a tougher UN sanctions regime against Kim Jong Un’s regime. The Chinese government, which routinely protests US military surveillance flights near its coast, denied that its pilot had acted recklessly. During his presidential campaign, Mr Trump was highly critical of China’s “island-building” activities in the South China Sea, where it has transformed a number of reefs into de facto military bases since 2012.

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Beijing (CNN)China said Wednesday it has the right to set up an air defense zone in the hotly disputed South China Sea, a day after a landmark court ruling against Beijing’s claims in the contested waters.

Liu Zhenmin, China’s vice foreign minister, told a press conference in Beijing that China’s sovereignty over the bulk of the South China Sea wouldn’t be affected by a decision by the International Court for Arbitration, which went overwhelmingly in favor of the Philippines.
Liu said imposing an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the region, which would require aircraft flying over the waters to first notify China, would depend on the threat level China faced.
“If our security is threatened, we of course have the right to set it up,” Liu said.

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TAIPEI – A Taiwanese warship set sail for the South China Sea on Wednesday “to defend Taiwan’s maritime territory”, a day after an international tribunal ruled China has no historic rights in the waterway and undermined Taipei’s claims to islands there.

President Tsai Ing-wen rallied troops on the deck of the frigate, saying Taiwanese were determined to “defend their country’s rights”, before the warship headed for Taiwan-controlled Taiping island in the Spratly island chain from the southern city of Kaohsiung.

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