China has claimed its military drove a US warship from waters it claims in the South China Sea amid heightened tensions in the flashpoint region.
The confrontation was the first since Chinese President Xi Jinping and Joe Biden met at the Asia-Pacific summit in San Francisco this month.
China’s state-run People’s Daily quoted a spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army’s Southern Theater Command, Tian Junli, saying the guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper had illegally entered China’s territorial waters over the weekend.
According to the paper, the incident occurred near the Paracel Islands.
“The theater command has organized air and naval forces to follow and monitor it and drove it away according to law,” he said.
Tian criticized the United States, accusing them of being in “serious violation” of China’s sovereignty and security.
Tian went on to call the US a “security risk maker in the South China Sea,” even going as far as to call them the “biggest destroyer” of peace and stability in the region.
China’s claims over the South China Sea have confronted the United States and other claimants, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei.
Beijing consistently rejected the 2016 ruling by The Permanent Court of Arbitration, which claimed China’s claims in the South China Sea have no legal basis.
China alleges chasing off a US warship in the South China Sea, citing 'security risks.' US Navy asserts navigational rights, highlighting escalating tensions. 🌊🤝 #SouthChinaSea #USChinaRelations #TheDailyIntake pic.twitter.com/AX1kzYVJAV— The Daily Intake (@dailyintake2023) November 26, 2023
Newsweek reported that the Hopper had “asserted navigational rights in the South China Sea near the Paracel Islands, consistent with international law,” according to the US Navy, cited by Reuters.
Lieutenant Kristina Weidemann, deputy spokesperson for the US 7th Fleet, said:
“The United States challenges excessive maritime claims around the world regardless of the identity of the claimant.”
Weidemann said, “Unlawful and sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea pose a serious threat to the freedom of the seas.”
In March this year, China threatened “serious consequences” Friday after the US Navy sailed a destroyer around the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, PBS reported.
US 7th Fleet spokesperson Lt. j.g. Luka Bakic said in an emailed statement:
“Unlawful and sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea pose a serious threat to the freedom of the seas, including the freedoms of navigation and overflight, free trade and unimpeded commerce, and freedom of economic opportunity for South China Sea littoral nations.”
“The United States challenges excessive maritime claims around the world regardless of the identity of the claimant,” Bakic said
“The act of the US military seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security, severely breached international laws, and is more ironclad evidence of the US pursuing navigation hegemony and militarizing the South China Sea,” ministry spokesperson Tan Kefei said.
“We solemnly request that the US. immediately stop such actions of provocation, otherwise it will bear the serious consequences of unexpected incidents caused by this.”