China says it has “removed” the US destroyer that sailed near the disputed islands

The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65), forward deployed in the United States’ 7th Fleet area of ​​operations, conducts ongoing operations in the South China Sea, in this photo posted on July 13, 2022. US Navy/Handout via Reuters

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BEIJING (Reuters) – A U.S. destroyer sailed near the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea on Wednesday, prompting an angry response from Beijing, which said its military had “removed” the ship after it illegally entered territorial waters.

The United States regularly conducts what it calls freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, defying what it says are restrictions on innocent passage imposed by China and other claimants.

The US Navy said the USS Penfold “affirmed navigational rights and freedoms in the South China Sea near the Paracel Islands, consistent with international law.”

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China says it does not impede freedom of navigation or overflight, and accuses the United States of deliberately raising tensions.

The People’s Liberation Army Southern Theater Command said the US ship’s actions seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security by illegally entering China’s territorial waters around the Paracel Islands, which are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

She added, “The Southern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army has organized naval and air forces to follow up, monitor, warn and remove the ship,” and showed pictures of the Penfold taken from the deck of the Chinese frigate Xianning.

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The facts once again show that the United States is nothing but a security risk maker in the South China Sea and a “destroyer of regional peace and stability.”

The US Navy said the Chinese statement on the mission was “false” and was the latest in a long line of Chinese actions “to distort legitimate US naval operations and assert its excessive and unlawful naval claims to the detriment of its Southeast Asian neighbors in the South China Sea.”

She added that the United States defends every country’s right to fly, sail and work where international law allows, and nothing “China says otherwise” will deter us.

China seized the Paracel Islands from the then South Vietnamese government in 1974.

Monday marked the sixth anniversary of an international court ruling that invalidated China’s sweeping claims to the South China Sea, a ship-borne trade corridor worth nearly $3 trillion each year.

China has never accepted the ruling.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei all have competing and often overlapping claims.

China has built artificial islands on some of its properties in the South China Sea, including airports, raising regional concerns about Beijing’s intentions.

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Reporting by Beijing Newsroom; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard at Tabby. Written by Bernard Orr; Edited by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Kim Coogill

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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