China on Wednesday deployed fighter jets and lashed out on the US, calling it the “biggest destroyer of peace” after a frontline American warship sailed past a reef near the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea (SCS), one of many world’s busiest maritime commerce lanes.
The US navy’s destroyer USS Benfold sailed past the Mischief Reef, positioned near Spratly Islands, often called Nansha in China, on Wednesday, saying it was a part of FONOP (Freedom of Navigation Operation).
Beijing claims almost all the SCS together with the Spratly Islands however a number of of its maritime neighbours together with The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei have competing claims over the islands and reefs.
The ring-shaped Mischief Reef is positioned some 250km from The Philippines coast.
It was reported in 2017 that China had constructed a number of navy installations on the Spratly Islands together with on the Mischief Reef to successfully bolster its declare.
Warships from the US navy incessantly sail close to the disputed islands, triggering sharp criticism from China.
“On September 8, USS Benfold (DDG 65) asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the Spratly Islands, consistent with international law. This FONOP upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea. USS Benfold demonstrated that Mischief Reef, a low-tide elevation in its natural state, is not entitled to a territorial sea under international law,” Lt Mark Langford, deputy public affairs officer of US seventh Fleet stated in a press release.
“The US engaged in ‘normal operations’ within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef. Under international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention, features like Mischief Reef that are submerged at high tide in their naturally formed state are not entitled to a territorial sea. The land reclamation efforts, installations, and structures built on Mischief Reef do not change this characterisation under international law,” it stated.
By partaking in regular operations inside 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, the United States demonstrated that vessels could lawfully train high-seas freedoms in these areas, Lt Langford’s assertion added.
“These missions are rule-of-law based and demonstrate our commitment to upholding the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations.”
“Freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea are a part of daily operations of US military forces throughout the region,” the assertion stated.
China’s People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) southern theatre command (STC) issued a robust assertion towards the US warship’s actions in the SCS.
The command’s spokesperson, Tian Junli, stated the operation was carried out with out the approval of the Chinese authorities.
The PLA airforce carried out follow-up surveillance and issued a warning to warship, he stated. “The US’s serious violation of China’s sovereignty and security is another ironclad evidence of its aggressive navigation hegemony and militarisation of the South China Sea,” Tian Junli stated.
He added that details have repeatedly proved that the US is an out-and-out “South China Sea security risk maker” and the “biggest destroyer” of peace and stability in the SCS.
The theater command will “remain on high alert, and take all necessary measures to fulfill its duty of protecting national sovereignty and security, as well as peace and stability in the region,” Tian Junli stated.