Hindustan Times (East UP)

China seethes as US warship sails by disputed reef

- Sutirtho Patranobis letters@hindustant­imes.com

BEIJING: China on Wednesday deployed fighter jets and lashed out at the US, calling it the “biggest destroyer of peace”, after an American warship sailed past a reef close to the Spratly Islands in the disputed waters of the South China Sea (SCS).

The US navy’s destroyer USS Benfold sailed past Mischief Reef, located close to Spratly Islands, known as Nansha in China, on Wednesday, saying it was part of a freedom of navigation operation (FONOP).

Beijing claims nearly the entire SCS including the Spratly Islands, but several of its maritime neighbours including The Philippine­s, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei have competing claims over the islands and reefs. In July 2016, an internatio­nal tribunal in The Hague rejected China’s “nine-dash line” claim in the SCS.

The ring-shaped Mischief Reef is located some 250km from The Philippine­s coast.

It was reported in 2017 that China had built several military installati­ons on the Spratly Islands including on the Mischief Reef to bolster its claim.

“On September 8, USS Benfold (DDG 65) asserted navigation­al rights and freedoms in the Spratly Islands, consistent with internatio­nal law. This FONOP upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea. USS Benfold demonstrat­ed that Mischief Reef, a low-tide elevation in its natural state, is not entitled to a territoria­l sea under internatio­nal law,” Mark Langford, deputy public affairs officer of US 7th Fleet, said in a statement.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) southern theatre command’s spokespers­on, Tian Junli, said the operation was carried out without China’s approval. “The US’s serious violation of China’s sovereignt­y and security is another ironclad evidence of its aggressive navigation hegemony and militarisa­tion of the South China Sea,” Tian said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India