USS Benfold ‘illegally trespassed’ into Chinese waters in move that undermined regional peace, Beijing claimed
The Chinese military “drove away” a US destroyer reportedly sailing near the Paracel (Xisha) Islands in the South China Sea, The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Southern Theatre Command said on Wednesday.
Beijing claims the guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold “Chinese territorial waters illegally invaded”. In response “the PLA’s Southern Theatre Command organized sea and air forces to follow, monitor, warn and drive away” the ship, according to a PLA statement.
“The facts once again show that the United States is nothing short of a ‘security risk maker in the South China Sea’ and a ‘destroyer of regional peace and stability,’” it added.
Meanwhile, the US Navy’s 7th Fleet confirmed that its destroyer cruised past the islands, saying that it “Navigational rights and freedoms asserted” in a move consistent with international law. One of its goals was to challenge “Restrictions on unintentional passage” imposed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
“The South China Sea’s unlawful maritime claims pose serious threats to freedom of the oceans. This includes freedoms of navigation, overflight and commerce.”, it stated, referring to territorial disputes in the area.
It isn’t the first time the USS Benfold has cruised through the region near the Paracel Islands. In January, having detected the destroyer, Beijing’s military scrambled, dispatching forces to “warn off” the American warship.
China, Vietnam and Taiwan claim sovereignty over Paracel Islands, but Beijing has de facto control of the archipelago. China and the US are at war over South China Sea, with Taiwan being a major focus. Although Washington does not claim any territories in the region, it has declared its commitment to a “Indo-Pacific free and open.”
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