US Navy faces China’s accusations in South China Sea

US ship entry into waters near the Second Thomas Shoal | Credits: Reuters
US ship entry into waters near the Second Thomas Shoal | Credits: Reuters

United States: China has lodged allegations against the US Navy for unlawfully entering the waters near the disputed Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, further intensifying tensions in this contentious region.

As per Reuters reports, China’s military accused the US Navy of a ship’s unauthorized entry into waters near the Second Thomas Shoal on Monday. This area, part of the disputed South China Sea atolls, has been a site of numerous maritime confrontations.

A spokesperson for China’s Southern Theater of Operations, speaking to the news agency, squarely blamed the United States for disturbing the South China Sea and violating China’s sovereignty. The spokesperson was quoted saying, “The US has significantly disrupted regional peace and stability.”

China’s concerns were centered around reports by Reuters that highlighted the Chinese military’s discontent over US ships monitoring waters adjacent to Renai Reef, formerly known as the Second Thomas Shoal, situated within the Spratly Islands.

Flags of the United States and China | Credits: Reuters
Flags of the United States and China | Credits: Reuters

Renai Reef falls within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, a designation made in a 2016 United Nations tribunal ruling. A Chinese military spokesperson conveyed that their forces closely monitored and tracked the US vessel, stating that Chinese troops in the area are on high alert to staunchly defend national sovereignty, according to Reuters’ reports.

Responding to these allegations, a US Navy official affirmed, “We remain committed to working with our allies and partners in pursuit of a free and open Indo-Pacific, undeterred by such incidents.”

The US Navy clarified that the USS Gabrielle Giffords, an Independence-class littoral combat ship, was conducting routine operations in international waters in the South China Sea, adhering to established international laws.

The US Navy’s statement emphasized, “The US 7th Fleet routinely operates in the South China Sea to demonstrate our commitment to upholding a free and open Indo-Pacific region, a practice sustained over decades.”

China has been embroiled in disputes with neighboring nations due to its expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea, according to Reuters’ reports.

Recent months have seen China engaging in various disputes over waterways. This included protests against US ship patrols in contested areas and multiple clashes with Philippine vessels.

Amidst rising tensions, the Philippine Coast Guard deployed two vessels in the South China Sea, responding to an observed surge in Chinese maritime militia vessels in the exclusive economic zone, as highlighted in several reports.