Lt. Nicholas Lingo, a spokesperson for the US Navy’s seventh Fleet headquartered in Japan, mentioned it was the second so-called freedom of navigation operation in the Paracel Islands — often called the Xisha Islands in China — to this point this yr, and the third focusing on Beijing’s “excessive maritime claims” in regional waters throughout the identical interval.
Wednesday’s operation by the guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold challenged not solely China however Vietnam and the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which additionally declare the islands, as all three governments require army vessels to hunt permission or give advance discover of “innocent passage” by the realm, Lingo mentioned.
The Paracels are a group of 130 small coral islands and reefs in the northwestern half of the South China Sea. They don’t have any indigenous inhabitants to talk of, solely Chinese army garrisons amounting to 1,400 individuals, in response to the CIA World Factbook.
The islands have been in Chinese arms for almost 50 years and through that point they have been populated with People’s Liberation Army (PLA) army installations.
The PLA’s Southern Theater Command mentioned it warned the US destroyer to depart its “territorial waters.”
“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,” PLA Air Force Col. Tian Junli, spokesman for the Southern Theater Command, mentioned in an announcement.
But Lingo, the US seventh Fleet spokesperson, mentioned the crusing of the US destroyer “upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea recognized in international law.”
“Unlawful and sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea pose a serious threat to the freedom of the seas, including the freedoms of navigation and overflight, free trade and unimpeded commerce, and freedom of economic opportunity for South China Sea littoral nations,” the assertion mentioned.
“Under international law … the ships of all states — including their warships — enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea. The unilateral imposition of any authorization or advance-notification requirement for innocent passage is unlawful,” the US Navy assertion mentioned.
Asserting freedom of navigation rights includes crusing inside the 12-mile territorial restrict from a nation’s shoreline acknowledged by worldwide regulation.
The US Navy assertion mentioned Wednesday’s operation additionally challenged “straight baselines” — strikes to outline all of the waters inside the island chain as a single territorial declare.
“International law does not permit continental States, like the PRC, to establish baselines around entire dispersed island groups. With these baselines, the PRC has attempted to claim more internal waters, territorial sea, exclusive economic zone, and continental shelf than it is entitled to under international law,” the seventh Fleet assertion mentioned, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
The PLA mentioned Wednesday the US Navy was rising tensions in the area.
“Facts once again show that the United States is an out-and-out ‘South China Sea Risk Maker’ and ‘Disruptors of Regional Peace and Stability,'” the PLA assertion mentioned.