wnol.info January 19 2018

United States warship sails close to S. China Sea island occupied by Beijing

January 19 2018, 05:28 | Irvin Gilbert

US warship sails close to S. China Sea island occupied by Beijing

US warship sails close to S. China Sea island occupied by Beijing

The latest U.S. "freedom of navigation" exercise comes as Beijing continues muscular efforts to cement its claim to almost all of the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by Taiwan and Southeast Asian nations including the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam. The significance of the distance of 12 nautical miles derives from the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, which generally grants coastal states jurisdiction over seas within 12 nautical miles of the coast. The US had been talking to China about trying to curb North Korea's nuclear development, but Trump tweeted that effort had failed last month.

The Xisha Islands are an inherent part of the Chinese territory, Lu said, noting that in accordance with the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, the Chinese government promulgated the baseline of the territorial sea off the Xisha Islands in 1996.

"The United States will fly, sail and operate wherever global law allows", he told USA Today.

China has extensively developed the artificial islands with airstrips and what appear to be military structures.

The Paracel Islands present a different case from the Spratlys because China has long maintained illegal straight baselines around its features. Since an earlier assessment in February, ATMI said that China had built an additional four shelters, bringing the total number of retractable-roof shelters to 12.

As part of the exercise, the guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem came within 12 miles of Triton, sailing into what China claims to be its territorial waters.

MalacaƱang on Friday reiterated President Rodrigo Duterte's "non-combative" position on territorial disputes between the Philippines and China, in reaction to the report of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Adm. Harry Harris, the top US military commander in the Pacific, said in a speech last week in Australia that Beijing was using "fake islands" to build up a military and strategic advantage. "That is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe".

"U.S. forces operate in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea".

Radar domes have recently been completed or are under construction around both Fiery Cross and Mischief, AMTI reported.

On Mischief Reef, ATMI also observed the installation of two smaller radomes, which the report said may be connected to missile systems.

Sunday's operation marks the second freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) by the Trump administration since the late-May operation by USS Dewey near Mischief Reef, which is one of China's seven artificial islands in the Spratly Group.

Other news