China’s military said it “drove away” a US warship that illegally entered Chinese waters near the Paracel Islands on Monday, the anniversary of a world court ruling that held Beijing had no claim over the South China Sea.
The USS Benfold entered the waters without China’s approval, seriously violating its sovereignty and undermining the steadiness of the South China Sea, the southern theatre command of the People’s Liberation Army said.
“We urge us to right away stop such provocative actions,” it said during a statement.
On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration within the Hague ruled that China had no historic title over the South China Sea, a ruling that Beijing said it might ignore.
The Benfold asserted navigational rights and freedoms within the vicinity of the Paracel Islands according to the law of nations, the United States Navy said during a statement.
The islands are claimed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam, which require either permission or advance notification before a military vessel passes through.
“Under the law of nations as reflected within the Law of the ocean Convention, the ships of all states, including their warships, enjoy the proper of innocent passage through the territorial sea,” the United States Navy added.
“By engaging in the innocent passage without giving prior notification to or asking permission from any of the claimants, us challenged these unlawful restrictions imposed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.” many other islands, reefs, and atolls within the resource-rich waterway are contested by Brunei, China, Malaysia and therefore the Philippines. China claims rights to resources within its so-called nine-dash line or most of the region.
“By conducting this operation, we demonstrated that these waters are beyond what China can lawfully claim as its territorial sea, which China’s claimed straight baselines around the Paracel Islands are inconsistent with the law of nations,” the United States Navy said.
In its 2016 ruling, The Hague court also said China had interfered with traditional Philippine fishing rights at Scarborough Shoal and breached the country’s sovereign rights by exploring for oil and gas near the Reed Bank.
Freedom of the seas was an “enduring” interest of all nations, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday.
“Nowhere is that the rules-based maritime order under greater threat than within the South China Sea,” Blinken said during a statement.
“The People’s Republic of China continues to coerce and intimidate Southeast Asian coastal states, threatening freedom of navigation during this critical global throughway.” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Monday at a daily briefing that we were harming peace and stability within the region.
In the Philippines, quite 100 activists gathered outside a building housing the Chinese consulate to press Beijing to respect the arbitral ruling and permit Filipinos to freely fish within the South China Sea.
The crowd marched with a Philippine flag and banners reading: “China get out of the West Philippine Sea” and “China out of our waters”.