BANGKOK — China threatened “serious consequences” on Friday after the US Navy sent a destroyer around the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea for the second day in a row, in a move Beijing said was a violation of its sovereignty and security.
The warning comes amid growing tensions between China and the United States in the region as Washington pushes back on Beijing’s increasingly assertive stance in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway it claims almost entirely.
On Thursday, after the US sailed the guided-missile destroyer USS Milius near the Paracel Islands, China said its navy and air force had forced the US ship to leave, a claim the US military denied.
The US rerouted the ship Friday near the islands, which are occupied by China but also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam, as part of what it called a “freedom of navigation” defiance of demands from all three nations that want a both required notification or permission before a military vessel passes.
“Illegal and far-reaching maritime claims in the South China Sea pose a serious threat to the freedom of the seas, including freedom of navigation and overflight, free trade and unfettered trade, and freedom of economic opportunity for South China Sea coastal states U.S. 7th Fleet spokesman Lieutenant JG Luka Bakic said in an emailed statement.
“The United States is challenging outrageous maritime claims around the world, regardless of the plaintiff’s identity,” Bakic said.
China’s Ministry of National Defense responded by accusing the US of “undermining the peace and stability of the South China Sea” with its actions.
“The act of the US military has seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security, has seriously violated international law, and is more of an ironclad proof that the US is pursuing navigational hegemony and militarizing the South China Sea,” said Tan Kefei, spokesman for the United States. the Ministry. “We solemnly request the US. immediately stop such provocative actions, otherwise it will bear the serious consequences of unexpected incidents caused by it.
He said China would take “all necessary measures” to ensure its safety, but did not elaborate.
Similar to its statement on Thursday about the incident, China again said it had chased the US ship away from islands in the South China Sea several hundred kilometers (miles) off the coast of Vietnam and China’s Hainan province.
Both sides said their actions were justified under international law.
Bakic told The Associated Press that the ship “was not chased away” and “continued to conduct routine maritime security operations in international waters” after finishing its mission near the Paracel Islands.
“The operation reflects our commitment to upholding freedom of navigation and lawful use of the sea for all nations,” he said. “The United States will continue to fly, sail and operate where international law allows, as Milius did today.”
The US does not claim itself in the South China Sea, but has for decades committed naval and air force resources to patrol the strategic waterway, through which about $5 trillion in global trade passes each year and which contains highly valuable fish stocks. and submarine mineral resources.
A United Nations-backed arbitration tribunal ruled in 2016 that China’s historic claim to the waters had no legal basis under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and Washington claims that freedom of navigation and overflight of the waterway at stake is the American national interest.
U.S. forces currently operate in the South China Sea on a daily basis and have been present for more than a century. China regularly reacts angrily, accusing the US of interfering in Asian affairs and encroaching on its sovereignty.
China’s claims have also often brought it into conflict with other countries in the region. Philippine diplomats sparked a slew of protests on Friday over China’s recent attack on a Philippine Coast Guard ship with a powerful military laser and other aggressive behavior.
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