China “expels” US destroyer from South China Sea, US rejects claim
The Chinese military on Thursday said it had warned and “expelled” an US warship from the disputed waters of the South China Sea, a claim denied by the American military.
The Chinese military on Thursday said it had warned and “expelled” an US warship from the disputed waters of the South China Sea (SCS), a claim swiftly denied by the American military, which said its navy ship was following international law while passing through the maritime region.
China claims nearly the entire SCS but is locked in dispute over the ownership of islands and reefs with several maritime neighbours including Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia besides Vietnam and Taiwan (which China says is a breakaway region.)
The SCS is a strategic, and frequently tense, waterway through which freight ships carrying goods worth trillions of dollars pass annually. It is also said to be an untapped reservoir of energy resources.
Thursday’s encounter between the Chinese and US military, which took place near the disputed Xisha (Paracel) islands, was the latest in a series of run-ins the two have had in recent years. The Xisha Islands are also known as the Hoang Sa Archipelago in Vietnam.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) “expelled”, guided missile destroyer, the USS Milius, on Thursday after it was found in the region “without authorisation from the Chinese government,” the Chinese military said in a statement.
The US warship made “an illegal intrusion into Chinese territorial waters off the Xisha Islands, sabotaging the peace and stability in the South China Sea,” Senior Colonel Tian Junli, a PLA Southern Theatre Command spokesperson, said in the statement.
“The naval and aerial forces of the Chinese PLA Southern Theatre Command conducted whole-process tracking and monitoring on the US destroyer in accordance with the law, and warned it off,” Tian added in the statement.
The US move “…seriously jeopardised the peace and stability in the South China Sea,” Tian said.
“The troops of the PLA Southern Theatre Command will always stay on high alert and take all necessary measures to resolutely safeguard China’s national sovereignty and security, as well as peace and stability in the SCS,” Tan said.
The US military swiftly disputed the Chinese statement.
“The USS. Milius is conducting routine operations in the South China Sea and was not expelled. The United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” the US Navy 7th Fleet said in a statement, according to Reuters.
The Chinese foreign ministry reacted too, reiterating the PLA statement that an US warship breached its waters and called on the US to “stop such provocations.”
“China will take all necessary measures to safeguard its sovereignty and security and uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea,” spokesperson Wang Wenbin said.