US warship sails near Chinese islands in South China Sea
BEIJING — A U.S. warship sailed near the Chinese-controlled Paracel Islands in the disputed South China Sea on Friday in a freedom of navigation operation, the U.S. Navy said, the first such mission under President Joe Biden’s new administration.
The U.S. Navy said the USS John S. McCain “asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the vicinity of the Paracel Islands, consistent with international law.”
China’s military said the U.S. is deliberately “creating tensions” and disrupting peace and stability after its warship sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait.
China, which claims democratically-run Taiwan as its own territory, has been angered by increased U.S. support for the island, including arms sales and sending warships through the Taiwan Strait, further souring Beijing-Washington relations.
The U.S. Navy said the guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain had “conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit Feb. 4 in accordance with international law.” Taiwan’s Defense Ministry described it as a “normal” mission.
In a statement late on Thursday, the Eastern Theater Command of China’s People’s Liberation Army said its forces had followed and tracked the ship.
“The U.S. move is a repeat of its old trick of ‘mixed manipulation’ of the situation across the Taiwan Strait, deliberately creating tensions and disrupting regional peace and stability. We are resolutely opposed to this,” it said.
“No matter how the situation in the Taiwan Strait changes, theater troops will loyally perform their duties and mission, resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity.”
Last year the U.S. Navy sailed through the narrow Taiwan Strait 13 times.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s government has been keen to demonstrate its support for Taiwan, calling their commitment to the island “rock solid.”
Last month Taiwan reported Chinese fighter jets and bombers had flown into the southwestern corner of its air defense identification zone, coinciding with a U.S. carrier strike group entering the disputed South China Sea.
The U.S. military said those Chinese military flights fitted a pattern of destabilizing and aggressive behavior by Beijing but posed no threat to the aircraft carrier group.
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