The US Navy’s 7th Fleet said in a statement Wednesday that the destroyer USS Benfold had claimed navigation rights in the South China Sea and called China’s previous claim for the voyage “false”.
“The USS Benfold conducted this FONOP in accordance with international law and then continued to conduct normal operations in international waters,” the Navy statement said.
The Navy did not elaborate on the specific statement it was refuting. The Global Times, which has been described as a public voice of the Chinese Communist Party, claimed that the Benfold “entered areas adjacent to the Meiji Reef” until it was “warned” by the forces. Chinese naval and air forces.
“More and more facts have proven that the United States is the greatest risk and peace breaker for stability and peace in the region,” Tian Junli, a senior colonel in the Army of the United States, told the newspaper. Chinese air.
The 7th Fleet said the declaration is the country’s latest to “distort lawful US maritime operations and assert its excessive and illegitimate maritime claims to the detriment of its Southeast Asian neighbors in the China Sea. southern “.
According to the press release, the Benfold “has demonstrated that Mischief Reef, a low-lying shoal in its natural state, has no right to a territorial sea under international law”.
“The efforts to reclaim land, facilities and structures built on Mischief Reef do not alter this qualification under international law. By engaging in normal operations within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, the United States has demonstrated that ships can legally exercise freedoms on the high seas in these areas, “the statement said.
Last month, Vice President Kamala Harris urged Vietnam to join the United States in challenging China’s “bullying” in the South China Sea. China has stepped up aggression in the region and has flown more than a dozen planes, including nuclear-capable bombers, near Taiwan Last weekend.
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“We need to find ways to put pressure and increase the pressure, frankly, on Beijing to respect the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and challenge its bullying and excessive maritime claims,” he said. she said during a speech at the opening of a meeting with Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
The Associated Press contributed to this report