NAVY SENDS SECOND SHIP INTO DISPUTED WATERS UNFAZED BY CHINA’S THREATS
Two U.S. warships in two days have sailed through separate disputed island chains in the South China Sea in a challenge to territorial claims, in what the U.S. Navy calls “freedom of navigation” operations.
Beijing on April 28 said it had “expelled” the USS Barry, a guided-missile destroyer, from the seas around the Paracel Islands, which it claims as its own territory, saying China’s sovereignty had been violated.
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The U.S. Navy disputed the story, however, saying that the warship had carried out its operation successfully.
The following day the Navy dispatched a larger cruiser, the USS Bunker Hill, through the Spratly island chain, where Beijing has built up militarized bases.
The USS Bunker Hill on April 29 “asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the Spratly Islands, consistent with international law,” said Commander Reann Mommsen, a spokesperson for the Navy’s 7th Fleet, in a statement emailed to The Epoch Times.
“This freedom of navigation operation upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea recognized in international law by challenging the restrictions on innocent passage imposed by China, Vietnam, and Taiwan,” said Mommsen. “The United States demonstrated that innocent passage may not be subject to such restrictions.”
Islands, reefs, and rocks in the South China Sea are disputed by a number of countries, including Vietnam, China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan.
“As long as some countries continue to claim and assert limits on rights that exceed what is provided for under international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention, the United States will continue to demonstrate its resolve to uphold these rights and freedoms for all,” said Mommsen. “No member of the international community should be intimidated or coerced into giving up their rights and freedoms.”
Some China observers have said that the communist party has notched up aggression in the South China Sea during the pandemic, while others say it’s too early to tell.
Within the U.S. leadership, there also appears to be a difference of opinion.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned over the weekend: “You’ve seen, too, China become aggressive even during this crisis, moving ships to the South China Sea, taking down a fishing vessel in the South China Sea. These authoritarian regimes are the kinds of regimes that hope to benefit in times of crisis, in this case a crisis that emanated from one of their countries.”
Pentagon leaders have given general warnings that adversaries may seek to take advantage of the pandemic—but have held back from saying that any country has yet dialed up the tempo.
The Pentagon’s chief spokesperson, Jonathan Hoffman, last week downplayed the perception of China’s rising aggression in the Pacific during the pandemic.
“China’s been very active in the South China Sea for years,” said Hoffman, listing various incursions. “Whether they’re taking advantage of a crisis, a global crisis for which they were on the front end of, I won’t say that. I think that they are continuing with their destabilizing activities that we have seen for many years.” . . .
(Excerpt from The Epoch Times. Article by Simon Veazey.)
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