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South China Sea: Beijing accuses US of provocation and claims to drive away US warship in disputed waters
Tensions over the South China Sea remain high, with China taking further steps to assert control over the disputed waters. With the US forces looking to deter Chinese aggression, China recently accused Washington of provocation while claiming to have driven out one of its warships.
Beijing accused the US of provocation when the destroyer USS Benfold entered the region of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. China made sweeping claims of sovereignty over almost the entire region, a claim that overlaps with the surrounding countries. However, around this time, five years ago, an international tribunal has ruled against China, citing no legal or historical basis for the communist nation to claim sovereignty over the waters.
Nevertheless, China insists on having sovereignty over the body of water, claiming that the USS Benfold entered the area without permission from the People’s Liberation Army or PLA. China further claimed that the USS Benfold undermined peace and stability in the region with its presence. The PLA released a statement calling on the US to cease provocation.
The US Navy also issued its response following China’s accusations, citing navigational rights and freedoms that were complying with international law.
“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,” said the US Navy. “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 Navy added.
The US has previously issued a reiteration of a previous warning made by the previous administration in the ongoing dispute over the waters. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken released a statement reaffirming the US’s stance over sovereignty of the waters by his predecessor Mike Pompeo of the Donald Trump administration. Blinken reiterated the US’ rejection of China’s sovereignty claims over the waters.
Blinken also warned China that any attack made on the Philippine Armed Forces, including its vessels and aircraft, would result in a military response from the US under its mutual defense treaty.