Navy ship sails through South China Sea days after China vowed to ‘definitely win once there is a war’ with US

A GROUP of US Naval ships cruised into the South China Sea, escalating a tense territorial dispute with China, after an op-ed published by Chinese state-run media claimed the country would "definitely win once there is a war" with the US.

The US Navy announced last week that the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group had entered the area for the first time during its current deployment.

The group's commander, Rear Admiral Dan Martin, said in a statement: "The freedom of all nations to navigate in international waters is important, and especially vital in the South China Sea, where nearly a third of global maritime trade transits each year."

Tensions bubbled over when one ship in the group, the USS Benfold, conducted a "freedom of operation" exercise near the Spratly Islands that came within 12 miles of a reef claimed by China.

The Chinese state-run media source Global Times fired back in an op-ed that claimed "indisputable sovereignty" over the area, and called the US move "naked provocation."

The article continued: "The Chinese side cannot remain indifferent, but must take countermeasures.

"The US has deliberately provoked disputes in the South China Sea, and it must in turn endure the PLA's [People's Liberation Army] increasingly strong countermeasures against it.

"The game between the two sides will continue to go to an extreme. The US will definitely see the PLA show up at its doorstep in the not-too-distant future.

"If the situation goes on like this, there will sooner or later be an incident between China and the US in the South China Sea. 

"Once the situation gets out of control and triggers military clash between China and the US, we must give full play to our home-field advantage. China will definitely win once there is a war."

In a statement released on Wednesday, the US Navy shot back: "the PRC's [People's Republic of China's] statement about this mission is false."

"The United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as USS Benfold did here.

"Nothing [the] PRC says otherwise will deter us," it added.

The Spratly Islands are a highly disputed territory claimed by China, Vietnam, and Taiwan, and with certain parts also claimed by the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

China has built an airstrip and other military structures on the islands.

In December of last year, China claimed it had "driven out" the USS John S. McCain from the maritime area after accusing the ship of "trespassing" into "territorial waters."

Chinese military spokesman Tian Junli said of the move: "Such actions by the United States have seriously violated China's sovereignty and security and severely undermined peace and stability in the South China Sea."

A subsequent statement from the US Navy claimed the US had "asserted navigational rights and freedoms."

It continued: "Unlawful and sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea pose a serious threat to the freedom of the seas, including the freedoms of navigation and overflight, free trade and unimpeded commerce, and freedom of economic opportunity for South China Sea littoral nations."

On August 3, the US Navy and Marines began its largest amphibious exercise in 40 years, spanning 17 time zones.

The exercise was thought to represent an attempt to fortify US Naval defense systems in the face of an increase in Russian military drills.

US 6th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Gene Black said the exercise "will test our commanders across the spectrum of naval warfare from the tactical to the strategic," The Defense Post reports.

It comes as China is in the process of constructing "at least 250 long range missile silos."

Photographs of one silo located in a remote part of Inner Mongolia were captured from above by a European Space Agency satellite.

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