- According to the ministry, "our soldiers in the military area are always on high alert to preserve national sovereignty, security, and peace and stability in the South China Sea."
- The guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam and guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins are part of the strike group
In what Washington described as a patrol to assert freedom of travel across the critical seaway, the US Navy sailed a destroyer near to Chinese-controlled islands on Wednesday in the South China Sea.
The USS Benfold, a guided-missile destroyer, passed by the Paracel Islands before continuing its operations in the South China Sea.
According to a news release from the 7th Fleet, the action “upheld the rights, freedoms, and authorised uses of the sea.”
The US Navy’s ability to retain its presence in the Indo-Pacific, where China has increased its presence through a significant shipbuilding effort, depends on such operations, according to experts.
With the signing of a mutual defence pact with the Solomon Islands, which allows it to welcome Chinese troops in an emergency and potentially establish a permanent Chinese military presence, Beijing has also scared the US, Australia, and New Zealand.
According to Air Force Col.Tian Junli, who was quoted on the website of the Defense Ministry, China’s Southern Theater Command monitored the Benfold’s transit and ordered the ship to leave the region.
According to the ministry, “our soldiers in the military area are always on high alert to preserve national sovereignty, security, and peace and stability in the South China Sea.”
China asserts sovereignty of nearly the whole critical waterway, which is used for approximately USD 5 trillion in annual international trade and is home to underwater mineral deposits and very lucrative fisheries.
Additionally asserting claims to the region are Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, the Philippines, and Brunei.
The guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam and guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins are part of the strike group that has been sent with the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan to the South China Sea.
Capt. Fred Goldhammer, commanding officer of the Ronald Reagan, was quoted in a news release as saying, “Our presence in the South China Sea reflects America’s commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, restated China’s rejection of a 2016 Hague arbitration decision brought by the Philippines under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea that invalidated Beijing’s expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea.
“China neither acknowledges nor accepts (the ruling). China will never recognise any demand or legal action stemming from this award “At a daily briefing, Wang stated.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged China to follow the decision and issued a warning that if its forces, vessels, or aircraft are attacked in the disputed waters, Washington is bound to defend its treaty partner, the Philippines.
While ostensibly seeking deeper ties with the Philippine government, China has aggressively used its substantially superior coast guard and naval resources to assert its authority in contested waters.
In the Makati financial district of Manila, dozens of left-wing activists and workers demonstrated in front of the Chinese Consulate on Tuesday, calling on Beijing to abide by the arbitration decision and the country’s newly elected President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to defend the nation’s borders and sovereignty in the South China Sea.
Washington does not assert any claims over the disputed waters, but it has long sent Navy ships and Air Force jets to police the strait because it believes that the US national interest favours freedom of navigation and overflight.
Responding angrily, China demanded that the US leave the area where it has had a naval presence for more than a century, accusing it of interfering in an exclusively Asian debate.