Routine or not? US ship in South China Sea inspires ´warning´

US warship/Shutterstock Images

The Chinese military said on Thursday March 23 a US ship was “warned” away in the South China Sea. The US navy denied China´s claims, stating that the ship, a guided missile destroyer,  was on a routine operation and left that part of the ocean of its own accord.

In a statement yesterday, the Southern Theatre Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said the USS Milius, intruded into waters around the disputed Paracel Islands.

The PLA “organised sea and air forces to track and monitor [the ship] in accordance with the law” and “warned it to leave”, said Tian Junli, spokesperson for the Southern Theatre Command.

China’s state media accused the US ship of trespassing in “Chinese territorial waters”.

The US Navy disputed the PLA statement, saying on Thursday the destroyer was conducting “routine operations” in the South China Sea and was not expelled by Chinese ships.

“The United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” a statement from the US Navy 7th Fleet said.

China claims sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea – a strategic waterway through which trillions of dollars worth of trade sails every year – despite an international court ruling that this assertion has no legal basis.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims in the sea and they have accused Chinese vessels of harassing their fishing boats in the area.

The US sends vessels through the South China Sea regularly to assert freedom of navigation in international waters. This has raised tensions with Beijing, already at high levels over the issue of Taiwan, an island that China claims as its own but that wishes to remain a separate country. There is a possibility that China will attempt to take Taiwan by force. The US has made its alliance with Taiwan clear.

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