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"China always respects the freedom of navigation and overflight all countries enjoy under international law," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily news briefing on Monday, as cited by Reuters.
"But we are consistently opposed to relevant countries threatening and damaging the sovereignty and security of littoral countries under the flag of freedom of navigation and overflight. We hope relevant countries can do more to safeguard regional peace and stability," the spokesman said.
The statement was China's first official comment on the latest US patrol mission. The US Navy made the announcement on its website last Saturday, stating that the strike group, including Nimitz-class aircraft carrier ‘USS Carl Vinson’, together with aircraft from the ‘Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2’, and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer ‘USS Wayne E. Meyer’ started “routine operations” in the South China Sea.
The deployment came a day after China completed war games with an aircraft carrier in the disputed waters and less than a week after Beijing issued a stern warning for the US to stay away from the area, stating that “China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters.”