USS Preble and HMAS Melbourne conducted FONOP in the South China Sea

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The friction comes this time from the USS Preble, a USA destroyer with guided missiles, sent on Sunday to patrol the waters of Scarborough Reef.

Naval vessels from the U.S., Japan, India and the Philippines conduct formation exercises and communication drills in the South China Sea, May 2019. In early May, the destroyer was one of two warships to sail past the Spratly Islands.

President Rodrigo Duterte prefers China's offer of loans and investments in the absence of a clearer stance from the USA in the disputed sea amid growing rivalry between the two nations, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said. "All operations are designed in accordance with global law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever worldwide law allows", Keiley said, adding that "FONOPs are not about any one country, nor are they about making political statements". From 2012 to 2015, Chinese clam harvesters severely damaged or destroyed at least 28 reefs across the South China Sea.

In Malacañang, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said on Tuesday he will no longer issue statements regarding foreign affairs issues because he has an "implied agreement" with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. that his department will be the one to make a position on the matter. "They're just challenging excessive maritime claims in a very consistent basis", Richardson told the conference. The two countries have often traded charges in the past over the territory as Washington accuses Beijing of militarising the South China Sea by placing military installations on artificial islands and reefs.

"We fly in and out of the South China Sea".

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Lu noted the Chinese Navy identified and verified the USA warships according to law, and warned them off.

An expert with the U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies has warned of a looming collapse of crucial South China Sea fisheries due to overfishing and development projects.

China imposed retaliatory tariff hikes on $60 billion of American goods, and in the USA the price of soybeans fell to a 10-year low on fears of a protracted trade war.

Last week, the commander of the U.S. Air Force in the Pacific region, Gen. Charles Brown, was in Manila to meet with top Filipino defense and military officials.

"But we resolutely oppose any country using freedom of navigation as an excuse to undermine the sovereignty and security interests of China and other countries in the region", he added. "We strongly urge the US side to immediately stop such provocative actions so as to not harm China-US relations and the peace and stability of the region", said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang at a press briefing. "China will continue to take all necessary measures to defend national sovereignty and security, and safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea".

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