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

The guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold sailed near the Spratly Islands, known as the Nansha Islands in China, in the southeastern South China Sea as part of the so-called “Operation Freedom of Navigation” (FONOP), the 7th Fleet said in a statement.

US Navy operation in the chain of islands where China built military fortifications on artificial islands, defying “restrictions on innocent passage imposed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Vietnam and Taiwan“, the message says.

“In violation of international law, the PRC, Vietnam and Taiwan require either permission or prior notice before a military vessel makes an “innocent passage” through the territorial sea of ​​the relevant facility,” the statement said.

“Territorial Sea” refers to 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 statement does not say their warship is contesting any of their claims.

Saturday’s operation was FONOP’s fourth operation to challenge China’s claims this year, and Benfold’s second in four days, according to Navy statements.

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

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

“The actions of the US military have seriously violated the sovereignty and security of China, seriously undermined the peace and stability in the South China Sea, and seriously violated international law and the norms of international relations,” said a colonel in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force. This is stated in the statement of the official representative of the command of the Southern Theater of Operations Tian Junli.

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The PLA said Wednesday that the US Navy is escalating tensions in the region.

“The facts once again show that the United States is a clear ‘risk maker in the South China Sea’ and a ‘violator of regional peace and stability’,” the PLA said in a statement.

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