Beijing, July 20: The US said on Wednesday (July 20) that its military forces will continue operation in the South China Sea as per the international law, Reuters reported.
US Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson informed this, the report added.
The South China Sea has been a focal point of international disputes throughout and the ruling by an international court last week quashing Beijing's claims on it has escalated things further. Beijing has refused to abide by the international verdict and did not participate in the proceedings brought by the Philippines---one of the maritime neighbours with which China has been at the loggerheads over the water body which is not only a rich reserve of natural resources but also a key route of global trading. Trade worth over $5 trillion takes place through this strategic waterway annually.
Besides China and the Philippines, countries like Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam are also parties to the dispute over the South China Sea.
China has also seen the US a key challenge to its authority in the strategic region as the latter has conducted navigation patrols close to islands held by the former, annoying and compelling it bolster its own military presence there, thereby escalating the issue further.
During his meeting with Yuan Yubai, China's North Sea Fleet commander, Richardson "underscored the importance of lawful and safe operations in the South China and elsewhere professional navies operate", Reuters reported the US Navy as saying.
"The US Navy will continue to conduct routine and lawful operations around the world, including in the South China Sea, in order to protect the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of sea and airspace guaranteed to all. This will not change," Reuters quoted Richardson as saying.
Freedom of navigation patrols carried out by foreign navies in the South China Sea could end "in disaster", a senior Chinese admiral said over the weekend.
China's state news agency Xinhua also countered by saying on Wednesday that countries outside the region should stay out of it.