China military ‘drove away’ US warship in South China Sea
Earlier this week, China alleged that its military drove away a United States warship that they claimed to have illegally entered Chinese waters near the disputed Paracel Islands. The incident occurred on Monday, on the anniversary of a landmark international court ruling that China has no claim over the South China Sea. According to reports, the USS Benfold entered the waters of the Paracels without seeking the approval of the Chinese government. China asserted that this seriously violated its sovereignty and undermined the stability of the South China Sea. In a public statement, the People’s Liberation Army’s Southern Theater Command stated that they urged the US to immediately stop such actions.
However, the United States Navy 7th Fleet stated that the vessel asserted navigational rights and freedoms maintained in the vicinity of the Paracel Islands, located in the South China Sea, consistent with the previously mentioned international law. The US has dismissed all Chinese claims of a serious violation of its sovereignty. The Paracels are highly contested between China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei, with Beijing claiming historic rights to the majority of the region. China took control of the islands in the 1970s, however, they are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. According to the US Navy, all three countries require permission or advance notice before any military vessel operates in the area.