- A US warship sailed near the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, angering Beijing.
- China said it “hunted” the vessel for illegally entering its territorial waters.
- Vietnam and Taiwan also claim the Paracels, which China calls its territory.
BEIJING (Reuters) – A U.S. warship sailed near the disputed island of Paracel in the South China Sea on Wednesday, angering Beijing, which said it “chased” the vessel for entering the waters illegally Chinese.
Freedom of navigation operations are often carried out by the United States in the South China Sea to challenge China and other claimants trying to stop ships from going where they want to go.
The US Navy said the USS Benfold was using its freedom of navigation near the Paracel Islands.
“The illegal and extensive 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 unfettered commerce, and freedom of economic opportunity for nations bordering the South China Sea.”
China says it does not restrict navigation or overflight, accusing the United States of stoking tensions.
The People’s Liberation Army’s Southern Theater Command said the US vessel illegally entered Chinese territorial waters around the Paracels, which Vietnam and Taiwan also claim.
“The Southern Theater Command of the PLA organized maritime and air forces to track, monitor, prevent and walk away” from the ship, he added.
“The facts show once again that the United States is nothing less than a ‘south china sea security risk manufacturer‘ and one ‘destroyer of regional peace and stability.‘“
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In 1974, China annexed the Paracel Islands from South Vietnam.
On Monday, it was six years since a court ruled against China’s claims to the South China Sea, which is used for $3 trillion in trade every year.
China has never recognized the decision.
China claims the South China Sea. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have rival claims.
China has erected artificial islands, including airports, in the South China Sea, causing regional concerns.
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