Top US, Chinese naval officials hold talks via video link

Top naval officials from the US and China today held an hour-long talk via a video conference, two days after an American destroyer sailed near to artificial islands built by Beijing in the disputed South China Sea.

Washington: Top naval officials from the US and China today held an hour-long talk via a video conference, two days after an American destroyer sailed near to artificial islands built by Beijing in the disputed South China Sea.

US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Johnathan Richardson participated in the video call with his Chinese counterpart Commander Admiral Wu Shengli to "discuss ongoing engagements" between the two navies and recent operations in the South China Sea, the Pentagon said.

This is the second time Richardson engaged with Wu over the video conference, the last being in August 2015.

The talks came two days after USS Lassen guided missile destroyer sailed close to one of the land formations claimed by China in the disputed Spratly Islands chain.

"During today's call, Richardson and Wu discussed US freedom of navigation operations; the relationship between the two navies, including pending port visits, senior leader engagement; and the importance of maintaining an ongoing dialogue," the Pentagon said.

Asserting that the US freedom of navigation operations are global in scope and executed across a wide range of maritime claims, the Pentagon said the operations serve to protect the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law.

"Freedom of navigation operations are not a challenge to the sovereignty of land features. The United States takes no position on competing sovereignty claims to land features in the South China Sea," the Pentagon said adding that both admirals agreed to speak again via video call later this year.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the US takes no position on competing sovereignty claims to land futures in the South China Sea.

"Rather, what we have done is we have urged all countries with claims on territory in the South China Sea, to work through diplomacy to try to resolve those differences. And no country, including China, should be trying to use their size or influence to try to resolve those confrontations militarily or through some other means," he said.

"They should resolve them diplomatically. I will note there is a lot of coverage of recent US military operation in the South China Sea. The freedom of navigation operation that we carried out.

"The fact is that freedom of navigation operations are not a challenge to the sovereignty of land futures, but in this case a freedom of navigation operation was carried out consistent with what the President said when he was standing in the Rose Garden next to the Chinese president," he said.

Earnest said the United States will fly, sail and operate anywhere that international law allows. 

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