The USS Benfold has entered the disputed waters near the Paracel Islands, which China claims as its own territory. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China said the destroyer entered the area without permission.
Beijing has claimed that the US move violates its sovereignty and undermines the region’s stability.
The PLA said in a statement: “We urged the United States to immediately cease such provocative actions.”
However, the US Navy claimed the destroyer was claiming navigation rights and freedoms in the region that were in accordance with international law.
The Navy said: “Under international law as reflected in the Convention on the Law of the Sea, ships of all States, including their warships, enjoy the right of innocent passage through the sea. territorial.
“By entering a harmless passage without prior notification or without seeking permission from any of the applicants, the United States has challenged these illegal restrictions imposed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.”
They added, “By carrying out this operation, the United States has demonstrated that these waters are beyond what China can legally claim as its territorial sea, and that the straight baselines claimed by China around the islands Paracels are incompatible with international law. “
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the United States was undermining peace and stability in the region.
He urged Washington to stop “sowing trouble” in the hotly contested region.
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A spokesperson for the Southern China Theater Command said China will “resolutely protect” its sovereignty and security in the hotly contested region.
Beijing accused the United States of “provocation” after a guided missile destroyer passed through the Taiwan Strait.
The US Navy issued a statement explaining why the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, the USS Curtis Wilbur, was in compliance with international law.
According to the People’s Daily, the spokesperson said that “the PLA expelled the American guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur which entered Chinese territorial waters in the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea.”
The South China Sea is a hotly contested region and faces claims from China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Diplomatic relations between nations are already extremely strained.
In recent months, Beijing has asserted its dominance in the region and has built several military bases on some of the atolls.
Although it does not claim any part of the archipelago, Washington has increased its military presence in order to counter Chinese domination in the region.