USA criticises Chinese 'missile launches' in South China Sea

USA criticises Chinese 'missile launches' in South China Sea

China and the United States have repeatedly traded barbs in the past over what Washington says is Beijing's militarisation of the South China Sea by building military installations on artificial islands and reefs.

The Chinese government has said that the military was carrying out drills between the Spratly and Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) starting last weekend and ending yesterday, warning other shipping not to enter a designated area.

Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Phillippines, and Taiwan all claim parts of the South China Sea.

Eastburn said the move was a "direct contradiction" to a 2015 pledge by Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting with then-U.S. President Barack Obama not to further militarize its man-made outposts in the South China Sea.

"Of course the Pentagon was aware of the Chinese missile launch from the man-made structures in the South China Sea near the Spratly Islands", Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn said.

Amid the reported Chinese missile test in the heavily contested South China Sea, United States Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim on Wednesday urged China and other country-claimants to "refrain from provocative unilateral actions" and "behave according to worldwide practices and law".

The move startled analysts, who characterized it as a rarity - if not a first - in the South China Sea, home to crucial worldwide shipping lanes. The tests were first reported by NBC News, and could have included systems like the DF-21D or DF-26.

Meanwhile, warships from Australia, Canada and France have been in and around the South China Sea during the last 12-months, as the U.S. encourages allies to support a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

In a statement, a Defence Department spokesperson said: "Australia is concerned at actions by any claimant that could raise tensions in the South China Sea".

Around $5trillion (£3.9trillion) worth of trade passes through the South China Sea each years.

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