Beijing warns off a US warship sailing near contested islands in South China Sea

WION Web Team
Beijing, ChinaUpdated: Feb 05, 2021, 10:51 PM IST

US warship in South China Sea (file photo). Photograph:(Reuters)

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Beijing said it had dispatched naval and air units to follow and warn away the ship.

China's military has condemned the US move of sending one of its warship vessels to sail near the Chinese-controlled Paracel Islands in the disputed South China Sea on Friday in a freedom of navigation operation.

Beijing said it had dispatched naval and air units to follow and warn away the ship.

This is the first such mission under President Joe Biden's new administration.

The busy waterway is one of a number of flashpoints in the US-China relationship, which include a trade war, US sanctions, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

China has anyway been infuriated by repeated US sailings near the islands Beijing occupies and controls in the South China Sea. China says it has irrefutable sovereignty and has accused Washington of deliberately stoking tensions.

The US Navy's 7th Fleet said the destroyer USS John S McCain "asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the vicinity of the Paracel Islands, consistent with international law".

The freedom of navigation operation upheld the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea recognised in international law by challenging the "unlawful restrictions on innocent passage imposed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam", it said.

The Southern Theatre Command of China's People's Liberation Army said the ship had entered into what it termed the territorial waters of the Paracels without permission, "seriously infringing upon China's sovereignty and security".

The United States was "deliberately disrupting the good atmosphere of the South China Sea of "peace, friendship, and cooperation", it added.

China took full control of the Paracels in 1974 after a short battle with South Vietnamese forces. Vietnam, as well as Taiwan, continue to claim the islands.

(with inputs from Reuters)