Venezuela calls US warship presence 'a provocation'
Caracas (AFP) - Venezuela accused the United States of "provocation" on Wednesday after a US warship steamed near the territorial waters of the South American country the day before.
"A United States Navy destroyer approached within 30 miles of the coast in a clear act of provocation. It cannot be described otherwise ... it is a clear defiant act," Defense Secretary Vladimir Padrino said during a military ceremony in northern Venezuela Carabobo state.
He warned that if the destroyer performed "military operations" in Venezuelan waters, "our forces would respond vigorously."
The minister, a military general, said in a speech commemorating a crucial struggle in Venezuela's war of independence.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Southern Command announced in a statement that a missile destroyer had entered waters that Venezuela believed to be itself.
"The U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, USS Nitze (DDG 94), conducted a free navigation operation and denied Venezuela's excessive maritime claims," said a statement by the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM).
According to the U.S. Navy, the operation took place in international waters outside a 12-mile jurisdiction that President Nicolas Maduro describes as belonging to Venezuela.
The ship sailed in an area that "the illegitimate Maduro regime falsely claims to have control over," the statement said.
Washington considers Maduro's presidency illegal and has called for its overthrow by recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido, along with around 60 other countries, as interim president.
Tensions between the United States and Venezuela have increased in recent weeks due to the arrival of five Iranian tankers to reduce fuel shortages in the South American country.
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