– US warship passes through disputed area in South China Sea
A US Navy destroyer passes the disputed Spratly Islands during Chinese military maneuvers in Taiwan. Beijing described the move as “illegal”.
Amid ongoing tensions between the United States and China, the US Navy said Monday it allowed a destroyer to pass through disputed waters in the South China Sea. The Navy said Monday that the United States has “guaranteed the rights, liberties and lawful use of the sea” through the “Freedom-of-Navigation” measure. Beijing described the US move as “illegal”.
According to the US Navy, the guided-missile destroyer USS Milius also passed by the Spratly Islands, which have been disputed between China, the Philippines and other neighbors for years. The warship was exercising “rights and freedoms of navigation in the South China Sea in the vicinity of the Spratly Islands in accordance with international law”.
After the passage, the USS Milius left the area and continued its operations in the South China Sea, the US Navy said. Accordingly, the vessel moved within twelve nautical miles of the Mischief Reef area belonging to the Spratly Islands.
China described the US move as “illegal”. The USS Milius “illegally entered the territorial waters of China’s Nansha Islands adjacent to the Meiji Reef without the permission of the Chinese government,” a spokesman for China’s People’s Liberation Army’s Southern Regional Command said on Monday. The Chinese Air Force “tracked and tracked” the ship.
On the third day of a military maneuver from Taiwan, the Chinese military said it was “sealing off” the island. Chinese state television broadcaster CCTV reported on Monday that several dozen military aircraft were stationed in Taiwan to enforce an “aerial blockade” of the island.
The Ministry of Defense in Taiwan said it had spotted 11 Chinese warships and 59 military aircraft off the island. According to Taipei, the flight will include fighter jets and bombers. According to Chinese reports, live explosives were used during the exercises as previously reported.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Regional Command said the aircraft carrier Shandong was also participating in the exercise.
China’s military on Saturday described the maneuver as a “warning” to “separatist forces”. Since the political split between mainland China and Taiwan in 1949, Beijing has considered the island a breakaway territory that it wants to reunify by military force.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s visit to the U.S. escalated tensions over the Taiwan issue. Tsai met US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy – the country’s third-highest representative in the US state hierarchy – in California on Wednesday.
China claims the entire South China Sea. However, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam claim parts of the sea area, which is of immense strategic and economic importance to their neighbours. Beijing is stoking regional conflict by piling up artificial islands and building military installations there. Neighboring countries also accuse Chinese ships of harassing fishing boats. The United States considers Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea illegal and uses military vessels to enforce freedom of navigation in international waters.