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US Navy Warns Against Chinese Flights in South China Sea

FILE - Aerial photo shows China's alleged ongoing reclamation of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, South China Sea, May 2015.

A senior U.S. naval officer says it would be destabilizing if China tries to fly jet fighters from its new man-made islands in the South China Sea.

Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet, told reporters Monday in Singapore that any attempt by China to fly military aircraft from the islands would not deter U.S. flights over the area.

"We will fly, sail and operate wherever international law permits, and that includes flying over that airspace," he said.

"We're not being provocative here," Aucoin added. "We are just exercising our rights and freedom according to international law, and we will continue to do this. It will benefit all countries no matter their size and strength."

Aucoin said he does not know when China might start flying fighter-type aircraft from the disputed Spratly archipelago, where China has created artificial islands and a 3,000-meter runway.

When asked about the impact of possible Chinese jet fighter patrols, Aucoin said "it's a destabilizing uncertainty." He urged China to make its intentions for the South China Sea better known, saying it would relieve some of the "angst" that countries are expressing.

Aucoin's comments come amid a two-day summit in California between President Barack Obama and leaders from Southeast Asian nations. The issue of the South China Sea is expected to be high on the agenda.

China claims much of the South China Sea, while several other nations, including the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, have rival claims.

Some information is from Reuters.