US Navy challenges Chinese claims in South China Sea for second time in a week

The USS Benfold guided-missile destroyer sailed near the Spratly Islands – known as the Nansha Islands in China – in the southeast South China Sea in a so-called ‘Operation Freedom of Peace’. navigation” (FONOP), according to the press release from the 7th fleet.

The US Navy’s operation in the island chain where China has built military fortifications on man-made islands has challenged “restrictions on innocent passage imposed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Vietnam and Taiwan”, says the press release.

“In violation of international law, the PRC, Vietnam and Taiwan claim to require prior authorization or notification before a military vessel engages in ‘innocent passage’ through the territorial sea of ​​the relevant element,” it said. he added.

“Territorial Sea” means the waters within 12 nautical miles of a country’s coastline, as recognized by international law.

The Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei also claim sovereignty over parts of the Spratly Islands, but the US Navy’s statement did not indicate that its warship disputed any of their claims.

Saturday’s operation was the fourth FONOP challenging Chinese claims this year and the second such operation for the Benfold in the past four days, according to Navy statements.

On Wednesday, he carried out the same mission in the Paracel Islands, a chain in the northern South China Sea known as the Xisha Islands in China, which is also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

Beijing reacted angrily to the US Navy’s FONOP Paracels on Wednesday.

“The actions of the US military have seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security, seriously undermined the peace and stability of the South China Sea, and seriously violated international law and norms of international relations,” the official said. Colonel Tian of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force. Junli, spokeswoman for Southern Theater Command, said in a statement.

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The PLA said on Wednesday that the US Navy was increasing tensions in the region.

“Facts once again show that the United States is a ‘creator of risks to the South China Sea’ and a ‘disruptor of regional peace and stability,'” the PLA statement said.

But Washington says the imposition of excessive maritime claims by China and others “poses a serious threat to the freedom of the seas, including the freedoms of navigation and overflight, free trade and unfettered commerce, and freedom of economic opportunity”.