The U.S. Navy on Monday (July 12) dismissed China’s allegations, stressing that China’s statement on the mission was “false” and that the U.S. Navy was conducting freedom of navigation operations in the Paracel Islands (known in China as the Xisha Islands) in accordance with international law. Earlier, the Chinese military said the U.S. warship was tracked, monitored and driven away by the People’s Liberation Army.
The U.S. Seventh Fleet said in a statement on its website Monday that “the People’s Republic of China’s statement on this mission is false. (Click here to open the official U.S. Navy website)
The statement said the guided missile destroyer USS Benford conducted this freedom of navigation operation in accordance with international law and then continued to conduct normal operations in international waters, “an operation that reflects our commitment to the principles of preserving freedom of navigation and the lawful use of the seas. As the USS Benford did there, the United States will continue to fly over, sail and operate wherever international law allows. The People’s Republic of China will not stop us, no matter what it says.”
Earlier Monday, the Chinese Defense Ministry website posted a statement from Senior Colonel Tian Junli, a spokesman for China’s southern war zone. The statement said the USS Benford “trespassed into China’s Xisha territorial waters without the approval of the Chinese government, and the People’s Liberation Army’s Southern War Zone organized naval and air forces to track and monitor the ship and warn it off.”
The statement also accused the U.S. military of “seriously violating international law and the norms of international relations” and that the U.S. is “an uncompromising ‘security risk maker in the South China Sea’.”
In response to the Chinese military’s statement, the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet said the United States upholds the principle of freedom of navigation and will continue to defend the rights and freedoms of countries whose maritime claims are contrary to international law under the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea, and that “no member of the international community should be intimidated or coerced into giving up their rights and freedoms. “
On Monday, the Biden administration announced that it would continue the former Trump administration’s policy on sovereignty claims in the South China Sea, continuing to find China’s claims to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea to be completely illegitimate.
Secretary of State John Blinken tweeted on July 11 that the United States supports allies and partners in defending their maritime rights and defending freedom of the seas.
Five years ago, on July 12, the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that China’s maritime claims to the nine-dash line in the South China Sea were not in accordance with international law, after China refused to attend.
China, however, said it “does not accept,” “does not recognize,” and “does not enforce” the ruling.
The Paracel Islands (also known as the “Xisha Islands”) are located in the northwestern part of the South China Sea. China, Vietnam and Taiwan all claim sovereignty over the Paracel Islands.