On Thursday, China ominously warned the United States that any repeat of recent military posturing in the South China Sea could be considered a potential spark for war.
“If the United States continues with these kinds of dangerous, provocative acts, there could well be a seriously pressing situation between frontline forces from both sides on the sea and in the air, or even a minor incident that sparks war,” Admiral Wu Shengli of the Chinese navy told U.S. Navy Admiral John Richardson via teleconference. “[I] hope the U.S. side cherishes the good situation between the Chinese and U.S. navies that has not come easily and avoids these kinds of incidents from happening again.”
As reported by Reuters, an unnamed and unverified U.S. official claimed the two nations had agreed to hold to protocols established by the joint Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) — designed to avoid exactly such a conflict. According to said official:
They agreed that it’s very important that both sides continue to use the protocols under the CUES agreement when they’re operating close to keep the chances of any misunderstanding and any kind of provocation from occurring.
On Tuesday, the USS Lassen performed an operation in disputed waters of the Spratly archipelago that brought the warship within 12 nautical miles (13.8 miles) of China’s controversial man-made island chain, bristling relations between the two nations.
Wu explained that despite the apparent act of latent aggression, there remains plenty of room for cooperation between China and the U.S. and that both sides need to “play a positive role in maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea.”
The European Union sided with Washington on Friday, saying the U.S.’ operation occurred in international waters and was an exercise in freedom of navigation.
This situation is still developing.
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