Beijing has accused the U.S. of entering the waters of islands also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan without permission.
China reacted angrily after the United States Navy sent a warship through the waters of the disputed South China Sea near the Paracel Islands on a mission they said would “declare” the freedom rights of sailing, but China says it is illegal.
China’s military Southern Theater said Thursday that the USS Curtis Wilbur had entered the ocean without permission, and that its ships and aircraft were following the U.S. ship.
Spokesman Tian Junli said the PLA had “expelled” the USS Curtis Wilbur, describing the U.S. as a “real rioter”, state broadcaster CGTN reported.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea under the so-called nine dash dash which was dismissed as unfounded by the international tribunal in The Hague. Taiwan, as well as the littoral states of Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia also own all or part of the sea.
In a statement, the 7th U.S. Navy said the USS Curtis Wilbur, an Arleigh Burke-class guidance-missile destroyer, sailed across the South China Sea “in the neighborhood” of the Paracel Islands on May 20 in a operations to uphold the rights, freedoms, and lawful use of the sea recognized under international law.
“Illegal and extensive maritime claims in the South China Sea pose a serious threat to maritime freedom, including freedoms of navigation and overflight, free trade and unrestricted trade and freedom. of economic opportunity for the littoral countries of the South China Sea, ”the statement said.
The South China Sea has emerged as a major flashpoint in deteriorating relations between the U.S. and China, with Washington rejecting Beijing’s claims of strategic waterways which have intensified the construction of artificial islands and expanded the rocky outcrop. islands to establish military bases.
China, Taiwan, and Vietnam all claim sovereignty over the Paracel Islands, known as Xisha in China and Hoang Sa in Vietnam. The island chain is located about 400 kilometers (250 miles) east of Vietnam and 350 kilometers (220 miles) south of China.
The U.S. Navy said the three require permission or prior notice before a military vessel or warship can pass through “innocent passage” through the sea. Under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, ships of all countries – including their warships – enjoy the right of innocent passage at sea in the territory, it added, stating that it did not require notice. or permission from any of the claimants.
The U.S. has increased so -called “freedom of navigation” operations in recent years, not only in the South China Sea but also in the Taiwan Strait where the USS Curtis Wilbur sailed on Tuesday. China has said it endangers the operation “peace and stability”.
“The United States supports freedom of navigation as a principle,” the U.S. Navy said in a statement stating that its operations are conducted in accordance with international law. It previously sent a warship – the USS John S McCain – near Paracels in February.
“As long as certain countries continue to declare maritime claims inconsistent with international law as indicated by the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention and that in order to prevent unlawful rights and freedoms guaranteed by all States, the United States will continue to protect those rights and freedoms. ”