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US Navy destroyer performs freedom of navigation exercise in South China Sea

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Lt. Nicholas Lingo, a spokesperson for the US Navy’s seventh Fleet headquartered in Japan, mentioned it was the second so-called freedom of navigation operation within the Paracel Islands — often called the Xisha Islands in China — thus far this yr, and the third focusing on Beijing’s “extreme maritime claims” in regional waters throughout the identical interval.

Wednesday’s operation by the guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold challenged not solely China however Vietnam and the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which additionally declare the islands, as all three governments require army vessels to hunt permission or give advance discover of “harmless passage” via the world, Lingo mentioned.

The Paracels are a group of 130 small coral islands and reefs within the northwestern a part of the South China Sea. They haven’t any indigenous inhabitants to talk of, solely Chinese language army garrisons amounting to 1,400 individuals, in line with the CIA World Factbook.

The islands have been in Chinese language fingers for almost 50 years and through that point they have been populated with Individuals’s Liberation Military (PLA) army installations.

The PLA’s Southern Theater Command mentioned it warned the US destroyer to depart its “territorial waters.”

“The actions of the US army have severely violated China’s sovereignty and safety, severely undermined the peace and stability of the South China Sea, and severely violated worldwide regulation and norms of worldwide relations,” PLA Air Power Col. Tian Junli, spokesman for the Southern Theater Command, mentioned in a press release.

However Lingo, the US seventh Fleet spokesperson, mentioned the crusing of the US destroyer “upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful makes use of of the ocean acknowledged in worldwide regulation.”

“Illegal and sweeping maritime claims within the South China Sea pose a critical menace to the liberty of the seas, together with the freedoms of navigation and overflight, free commerce and unimpeded commerce, and freedom of financial alternative for South China Sea littoral nations,” the assertion mentioned.

“Beneath worldwide regulation … the ships of all states — together with their warships — take pleasure in the best of harmless passage via the territorial sea. The unilateral imposition of any authorization or advance-notification requirement for harmless passage is illegal,” the US Navy assertion mentioned.

Asserting freedom of navigation rights includes crusing inside the 12-mile territorial restrict from a nation’s shoreline acknowledged by worldwide regulation.

The US Navy assertion mentioned Wednesday’s operation additionally challenged “straight baselines” — strikes to outline all of the waters inside the island chain as a single territorial declare.

“Worldwide regulation doesn’t allow continental States, just like the PRC, to ascertain baselines round total dispersed island teams. With these baselines, the PRC has tried to assert extra inside waters, territorial sea, unique financial zone, and continental shelf than it’s entitled to underneath worldwide regulation,” the seventh Fleet assertion mentioned, referring to the Individuals’s Republic of China.

The PLA mentioned Wednesday the US Navy was rising tensions within the area.

“Details as soon as once more present that the US is an out-and-out ‘South China Sea Threat Maker’ and ‘Disruptors of Regional Peace and Stability,'” the PLA assertion mentioned.