The United States Navy has issued a response after China accused a U.S. ship of “illegally” intruding into disputed waters between China and the Philippines near Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea.
According to a statement from the People’s Liberation Army Southern Theater obtained by Fox News, the Chinese military mobilized its naval force Monday and ordered the tracking of the USS Gabrielle Giffords after China accused the U.S. naval vessel of violating its territorial waters in the South China Sea.
The Chinese military’s Southern Theater stated, “The U.S. deliberately disrupted the situation in the South China Sea, seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security, seriously undermined regional peace and stability, and seriously violated international law and basic norms governing international relations, fully demonstrating that the U.S. is the biggest threat to peace and stability in the South China Sea.”
Fox News reported that the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet, which is based in Japan, has denied China’s claims, explaining that the USS Gabrielle “was conducting routine operations in international waters … consistent with international law.”
The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet also claimed that its operation in the South China Sea is part of the Navy’s effort of “upholding a free and open Indo-Pacific region where all nations, large and small, are secure in their sovereignty, can resolve disputes without coercion, and have the freedom to navigate and fly consistent with international laws, rules and norms.”
While China claims sovereign control over most of the reefs and outcroppings of the South China Sea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, and Malaysia also claim sovereignty over multiple areas of the South China Sea, which has led to increased tension in the South China Sea, according to Fox News.
Fox News reported that Chinese and Philippine coast guard and naval ships have had multiple confrontations near Second Thomas Shoal over the past several months, leading the Philippines to request U.S. assistance in the ongoing territorial disputes.