China ‘warned off’ US warship amid bid to seize remote island in South China Sea

Bill Hayton discusses economic impact of South China Sea tensions

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The Chinese navy has announced it is shutting off the sea area west of the Leizhou peninsula to start “live-fire exercises” on Thursday and Friday. The Chinese navy’s Southern Theatre Command took part in an amphibious landing exercise on Wednesday.

The announcement of Beijing’s military drill follows as a US destroyer sailed near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea on Wednesday in a move that is said to breach China’s new maritime laws.

The US Navy’s 7th Fleet said in a statement the Chinese government’s accusation the ship entered without permission was “false.”

The ship was then “warned off” by Chinese naval forces.

In a statement China said: “The naval and aerial forces of the PLA Southern Theatre Command conducted whole-process tracking and monitoring of the US destroyer and warned it off.”

The US Navy’s 7th Fleet struck back at China, claiming the statement is false.

They said: “USS Benfold conducted this freedom of navigation operation in accordance with international law and then continued on to conduct normal operations in international waters.”

“Under international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention, features like Mischief Reef that are submerged at high tide in their naturally formed state are not entitled to a territorial sea.

“The land reclamation efforts, installations, and structures built on Mischief Reef do not change this characterization under international law.”

In 2017 it was reported China built several military installations on the Spratly Islands including on the Mischief Reef.

Beijing claims most of the South China Sea as its sovereign territory causing tension among several nations in the region.

US navy warships often sail past the disputed islands, drawing heavy criticism from China.

According to South China Sea Strategic Situations Probing Initiative (SCSPI), an open-intelligence gathering service on the South China Sea, the US aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson entered the region via the Bashi channel on Monday.

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Tensions have increased since the new maritime laws were introduced by China stating any foreign vessel entering the waters must give notice to Beijing.

Ships have been asked to report details of their cargo in case they are carrying radioactive materials, bulk oil, chemicals.

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