Chinese air and naval forces expelled a US warship that sailed near the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea on Saturday, a Chinese military spokesperson said on Tuesday.
The Montgomery, a littoral combat ship of the US Navy’s 7th Fleet, sailed near the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea on Saturday in what was claimed to be the first “freedom of navigation” operation of 2020, the Japan Times reported on Tuesday.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Southern Theater Command organized air and naval forces, tracked down and monitored the US vessel’s course, verified and identified the vessel and expelled it, said Senior Colonel Li Huamin, a spokesperson of the PLA Southern Theater Command, on Tuesday.
Saturday was China’s traditional Spring Festival, and this is not the first time the US has sent warships to disrupt a Chinese festival. In 2019, the US also sent warships in the waters of Nansha Islands during the Spring Festival holiday, and a warship sailed into Chinese territorial waters off Xisha Islands during the traditional Mid-Autumn Festival in September.
Li, the Southern Theater Command spokesperson, said the US warship’s intentional provocation during Spring Festival was done with ulterior motives, and is a flagrant attempt at navigation hegemony.
China has undisputed sovereignty over its islands in the South China Sea and nearby waters, and no US provocation will change that fact, Li said.
The Southern Theater Command is always on high alert and will take all necessary measures to resolutely fulfill its duty, protect national sovereignty and security, and safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea, Li said.
According to a statement released by the Southern Theater Command on Tuesday, two loaded fighter bombers of a Navy aviation brigade headed to the target area and conducted alert patrol missions on Saturday morning.
“We need to remain on high alert, even more so during key festivals,” an officer of the brigade said in a statement, noting that there is no holiday for war preparedness, and troops are determined to safeguard the country’s sea and air space.