The United States has rejected Chinese claims that a US warship was expelled on Thursday from waters it illegally entered in the disputed South China Sea.
The Chinese military said the USS Milius, a guided-missile destroyer, had “illegally entered China’s Xisha territorial waters without the approval of the Chinese government”.
Chinese troops monitored the ship, warned it and chased it away, Tian Junli, a spokesman for China’s Southern Theater Command, said in a statement early Thursday.
He added that the US “threatened the peace and stability of the South China Sea region” and that Beijing’s troops “would always remain on high alert and take all necessary measures to resolutely protect national sovereignty and security and peace.” and stability” in the area.
But the US military quickly disputed the Chinese statement.
“The USS Milius is conducting routine operations in the South China Sea and has not been dislodged. The United States will continue to fly, sail and operate where international law permits,” the US Navy’s 7th Fleet said in a statement, according to Reuters .
The Xisha Islands, also known as the Paracel Islands and as the Hoang Sa Archipelago in Vietnam, are a disputed archipelago of reefs and coral islands in southern China.
Geopolitical tensions have been high in the strategically important waterway for years, with frequent flashpoints between the world’s two largest economies.
In July 2021, China accused another US warship, the USS Benfold, of entering what it considers to be its territorial waters near the Paracel Islands.
NBC News was aboard a US patrol plane last month when a Chinese fighter jet flew past 500 feet away for more than an hour.
China, which has the world’s largest navy, claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, despite a landmark 2016 international tribunal ruling that its claims have no legal basis. His stance has antagonized a number of countries in the region with which it has territorial disputes.
The US and many of China’s neighbors accuse Beijing of using “grey zone” tactics that are not legal acts of war to intimidate other countries and gain more control over the area. In response, the US regularly conducts “freedom of navigation” and other operations in international waters and airspace.
The USS Milius is named after Captain Paul L. Milius, an American aviator whose plane was believed destroyed over Laos during the Vietnam War in 1968.
The ship is capable of simultaneous anti-aircraft, submarine, surface and attack warfare, according to the United States Navy website.
Jennifer Jett contributed.