US and Philippine navy ships during a joint exercise. Pic/AP
The Chinese military said that an American naval ship had "illegally intruded" on Monday into waters near the Second Thomas Shoal, the site of a hot territorial dispute between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea.
A Chinese naval force was mobilized to track the USS Gabrielle Giffords during the operation, according to a statement from the People's Liberation Army Southern Theater. The U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet said the ship "was conducting routine operations in international waters ... consistent with international law."
Chinese and Philippine naval and coast guard ships have confronted each other repeatedly around the shoal in the Spratly Islands in recent months as China tries to prevent the Philippines from resupplying and repairing a rusting warship that it intentionally ran aground in 1999 to serve as a military outpost.
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Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. agreed to an expansion of the US military presence in the country early this year and launched joint sea and air patrols with the US late last month.
US and Japanese divers have discovered wreckage and remains of crew members from a US Air Force Osprey aircraft that crashed last week off southwestern Japan, the Air Force announced Monday. The CV-22 Osprey carrying eight American personnel crashed last Wednesday off Yakushima island during a training mission. The body of one victim was recovered and identified earlier, while seven others remained missing.
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