China Protests U.S. South China Sea Freedom of Navigation Operation

March 24, 2023 5:46 PM
Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69) conducts a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea, March 24. Milius is forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific. US Navy Photo

A U.S. warship conducted a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea, near the Parcel Islands, the day after China claimed it chased away the ship from its territorial waters, U.S. 7th Fleet announced Friday.

USS Milius (DDG-69) sailed near the Parcel Islands and then into the South China Sea, according to the release. On Thursday, a Chinese spokesperson said the People’s Liberation Army forces chased away the guided missile destroyer after it sailed into its territorial waters. The U.S. Navy denied these accusations.

“This freedom of navigation operation (“FONOP”) upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea recognized in international law by challenging the restrictions on innocent passage imposed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Taiwan, and Vietnam and also by challenging PRC’s claim to straight baselines enclosing the Paracel Islands,” reads the release.

The Parcel Islands are claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan, and they reach require permission or notification before a warship may sail through the waters around them, according to the release.

The People’s Republic of China has claimed straight baselines around the islands, which the United States sees as a violation of international sea law, according to the release.

“By conducting this operation, the United States demonstrated that these waters are beyond what the PRC can lawfully claim as its territorial sea, and that the PRC claimed straight baselines around the Paracel Islands are inconsistent with international law,” reads the release.

Milius was in the Sea of Japan earlier this week conducting an exercise with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force JS Atago (DDG-177).

In a statement, Chinese authorities protested the operation on Friday.

“The act of the U.S. military seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security, severely breached international laws, and is more ironclad evidence of the U.S. pursuing navigation hegemony and militarizing the South China Sea,” ministry spokesperson Tan Kefei said in a Friday statement.
“We solemnly request that the US. immediately stop such actions of provocation, otherwise, it will bear the serious consequences of unexpected incidents caused by this.”

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio is a reporter with USNI News. She has a master’s degree in science journalism and has covered local courts, crime, health, military affairs and the Naval Academy.
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