Lieutenant Nicholas Lingo, spokesman for the US Navy’s 7th Fleet based in Japan, said it was the second so-called freedom of navigation operation in the Paracel Islands – known as the archipelago. China’s Xisha – so far this year, and the third target Beijing’s “excessive maritime claims” in regional waters during the same period.
Wednesday’s operation by the guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold challenged not only China but also Vietnam and the self-governing island of Taiwan, which also claims the islands, as all three governments claim. Military vessels must obtain permission or advance notice of “innocent passage” through the area, Lingo said.
The Paracels are a collection of 130 small atolls and reefs in the northwest of the South China Sea. They have no native population to speak of, only the Chinese military garrisoning up to 1,400 people, according to the CIA World Factbook.
The islands have been in Chinese hands for nearly 50 years, and during that time they were home to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
The PLA Southern Theater Command said it warned the US destroyer to leave its “territorial waters”.
“The actions of the US military have seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security, seriously damaged the peace and stability of the East Sea, and seriously violated international law and norms in international relations. international,” PLA Air Force Colonel Tian Junli, a spokesman for the Southern Theater Command, said in a statement.
But Lingo, a spokesman for the US 7th Fleet, said the US destroyer’s sailing “maintains the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea recognized in international law.”
“Raw and far-reaching maritime claims in the South China Sea pose a serious threat to freedom of the seas, including freedom of navigation and overflight, free trade and unimpeded commerce. obstacles, and freeing economic opportunities for the countries bordering the South China Sea,” the statement said.
US Navy statement said.
Claiming freedom of navigation includes sailing within 12 miles of a country’s coastline as recognized by international law.
The US Navy statement said Wednesday’s operation also challenged “straight baselines” – a move that defines all of the seas in the island chain as a single territorial claim.
“International law does not allow mainland States, such as the People’s Republic of China, to establish baselines around entire groups of scattered islands. With these baselines, the People’s Republic of China has attempted to claim a claim. more internal waters, territorial seas, exclusive economic zones and continental shelves than is entitled under international law,” the 7th Fleet statement said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
The PLA on Wednesday said the US Navy is increasing tensions in the region.
“The facts once again show that the United States is the ‘Risk Maker in the South China Sea’ and the ‘Disrupter of regional peace and stability’,” the PLA statement said.