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China Says it “Drove Away” US Warship Traveling in International Waters

The U.S. Navy was accused of “provocative actions” after its USS Benfold traveled without permission in the international waters of the Paracel Islands without gaining China’s pre-approval.

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These waters, defined as the “Nine-Dash Line” have been an area of dispute for decades. Monday July 12th marked the anniversary of a 2016 international court ruling that Beijing has no claim over the South China Sea.

Image Source: The Economist

Air Force Senior Colonel Tian of the South Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army gave a statement highlighting the “ironclad evidence of its [US] aggressive navigational hegemony and militarization of the South China Sea”.

“We urge the US to immediately stop such provocative actions and strictly control maritime and air military activities, otherwise it will bear all resulting consequences,” warned Colonel Tian

“It is further irrefutable proof that the US is exercising naval hegemony to push for the militarization of the South China Sea. Facts have shown that the US is indeed a troublemaker in the region, Tian added “The US will be responsible for the consequences of its actions,”

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The U.S. Navy responded to these allegations in a statement “China took control of the Paracels, a chain of barren islands about 250 miles (400 kilometres east of Vietnam) and 220 miles (350 kilometres) southeast of Hainan Island, in the 1970s. They are also claimed by Vietnam, which calls them Hoang Sa, as well as Taiwan. All three countries require permission or advance notification before any military vessel sails through the area,

“Under international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention, the ships of all states, including their warships, enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea,” the U.S. Navy added By engaging in innocent passage without giving prior notification to or asking permission from any of the claimants, the United States challenged these unlawful restrictions imposed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam. By conducting this operation, the United States demonstrated that these waters are beyond what China can lawfully claim as its territorial sea, and that China’s claimed straight baselines around the Paracel Islands are inconsistent with international law,” the U.S. Navy said.”

“While in the South China Sea, the strike group is conducting maritime security operations, which include flight operations with fixed and rotary wing aircraft, maritime strike exercises, and coordinated tactical training between surface and air units,” the U.S. Navy continued, “The operation reflects our commitment to uphold freedom of navigation and lawful uses of the sea as a principle”—“The United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, as USS Benfold did here. Nothing PRC (the People’s Republic of China) says otherwise will deter us.

As China continues to attempt to control international waters and surrounding islands, the U.S. holds its rightful stance on this issue.

The U.S. Department of State released a press statement: “Freedom of the seas is an enduring interest of all nations and is vital to global peace and prosperity. The international community has long benefited from the rules-based maritime order, where international law, as reflected in the UN Law of the Sea Convention, sets out the legal framework for all activities in the oceans and seas. This body of international law forms the basis for national, regional, and global action and cooperation in the maritime sector and is vital to ensuring the free flow of global commerce.”

Nowhere is the rules-based maritime order under greater threat than in the South China Sea. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues to coerce and intimidate Southeast Asian coastal states, threatening freedom of navigation in this critical global throughway. Five years ago, an Arbitral Tribunal constituted under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention delivered a unanimous and enduring decision firmly rejecting the PRC’s expansive South China Sea maritime claims as having no basis in international law. The Tribunal stated that the PRC has no lawful claim to the area determined by the Arbitral Tribunal to be part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. The PRC and the Philippines, pursuant to their treaty obligations under the Law of the Sea Convention, are legally bound to comply with this decision.”

The United States reaffirms its July 13, 2020 policy regarding maritime claims in the South China Sea. We also reaffirm that an armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the South China Sea would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.

We call on the PRC to abide by its obligations under international law, cease its provocative behavior, and take steps to reassure the international community that it is committed to the rules-based maritime order that respects the rights of all countries, big and small.

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