By Aldgra Fredly
The United States sent a destroyer through the disputed South China Sea on July 13, infuriating China, which condemned the move as an attempt from the United States to “militarize” the region.
The USS Benfold was sailing near the disputed Paracel Islands—which China calls the Xisha Islands—as part of the U.S. Navy’s “freedom of navigation operation,” the U.S. Indo–Pacific Command said in a statement.
“The operation reflects our commitment to uphold freedom of navigation and lawful uses of the sea as a principle. The U.S. will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as USS Benfold did here,” it said.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Southern Theater Command accused the U.S. Navy destroyer of “trespassing” in its territorial waters, and dispatched naval and air forces to warn it off.
“The U.S. military’s move has seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security, severely undermined peace and stability in the South China Sea, and breached international law and norms governing international relations,” said Tian Junli, the PLA Southern Theater Command’s spokesperson.
“This is yet another irrefutable proof of the US attempt to militarize the South China Sea through maritime hegemony,” Junli added.
The U.S. Navy denied Beijing’s assertion and said the Chinese regime aims to “misrepresent lawful U.S. maritime operations and assert its excessive and illegitimate maritime claims at the expense of its Southeast Asian neighbors in the South China Sea.”
“Regardless of which claimant has sovereignty over the islands in the Paracel Islands, straight baselines cannot lawfully be drawn around the Paracel Islands in their entirety,” the U.S. Navy said, citing Article 7 of the Law of Sea Convention.
Read more here: NDT