China tells US ‘respect law’ after warship passes island

31st Jan 2016
China tells US ‘respect law’ after warship passes island

By Tevfik Durul

 

SHANGHAI (AA) – China has urged the United States to respect and abide by its laws after a U.S. warship passed by an island that Beijing claims in the South China Sea.

China underlined that it will take whatever measures necessary to safeguard China’s sovereignty.

“The U.S. act severely violated Chinese law, sabotaged the peace, security and good order of the waters, and undermined the region’ s peace and stability,” State news agency Xinhua reported Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun as saying.

On Saturday, a U.S. defense official said in a statement that the warship had passed by a contested island in the South China Sea “challenging excessive maritime claims that restrict the rights and freedoms of the United States and others”.

“This operation challenged attempts by the three claimants, China, Taiwan and Vietnam, to restrict navigation rights and freedoms around the features they claim by policies that require prior permission or notification of transit within territorial seas,” Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright said.

According to Wright, Saturday’s operation took place in the vicinity of Triton Island in the Paracel Islands, and the USS Curtis Wilbur, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer transited “in innocent passage within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island”.

He noted that no claimants were notified prior to the transit.

According to Chinese law, foreign warships entering what it calls its territorial waters must be approved by the Chinese government.

“The U.S. warship violated Chinese law and entered China’ s territorial sea without authorization. The Chinese side conducted surveillance and vocal warnings to the U.S. warship,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a statement.

The Paracel Islands are known as Xisha in Chinese and Hoang Sa in Vietnamese. Although it is controlled — and as some would say “occupied” — by China, it is also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.

Yang said that Chinese troops, Navy vessels and warplanes took immediate action; identifying and verifying the U.S. warship, warning it and expelling it swiftly.

He added that despite proposing measures to ensure navigation safety of ships and aircraft of all parties in the area, the U.S. has “repeatedly sent vessels and planes into China’ s territorial sea and air space regardless of China’s opposition”.

This has lead to close encounters of navy and air force troops of the two countries, he added.

The U.S. conducted a similar operation in October, with China also saying it had warned the USS Lassen it had come too close.

In December, China urged the U.S. to stop “provocative actions” following the flight of two B-52 bombers near islands it claims in the South China Sea.

The Philippines refers to the South China Sea as the “West Philippine Sea”, emphasizing that parts of the water fall under its exclusive economic zone as allowed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

In August, it formally presented a case against China before an international tribunal at The Hague, arguing that Beijing has no right to exercise what it refers to as “historic rights” over areas of the sea.

 

[Map image by CIA. Wikimedia. Creative Commons]

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