The Chinese military said it yesterday chased a US warship out of a disputed area of the South China Sea after Washington on Sunday warned that the Philippines might activate a mutual defense treaty.
Beijing affirmed its claims to portions of the sea that are also claimed by Taiwan and several Southeast Asian governments.
It rejected a declaration of support by US President Joe Biden’s administration for an international tribunal ruling in favor of the Philippines that threw out most of China’s claims.
Beijing is increasingly assertive about pressing its territorial claims, which are fueling tension with neighbors, including Taiwan, Japan, India, Vietnam and the Philippines.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said it sent ships and planes after the USS Benfold entered waters claimed by Beijing around the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島).
Chinese forces “warned them and drove them away,” the military said on its social media account.
The islands are “China’s inherent territory,” the PLA said. “The actions of the US military have seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security.”
The US Navy, in a statement by the 7th Fleet Public Affairs office, rejected the Chinese statement as false, but gave no details of a possible encounter with PLA forces.
The Benfold carried out the operation “in accordance with international law and then continued on to conduct normal operations in international waters,” the statement said.
The Chinese statement was “the latest in a long string of PRC actions to misrepresent lawful US maritime operations and assert its excessive and illegitimate maritime claims,” the US Navy statement said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Beijing of intimidating its Southeast Asian neighbors and threatening navigation through an important global waterway.
Blinken warned that an attack on Philippine vessels or aircraft “would invoke US mutual defense commitments.”
A 1951 treaty obligates Washington and Manila to come to each other’s aid in case of an attack.
A US-based expert yesterday said that swarms of Chinese vessels anchored in a disputed area of the South China Sea have dumped human waste and wastewater for years, causing algae blooms that have damaged coral reefs and threatened fish in an unfolding catastrophe.
Satellite images over the past five years show how human waste, sewage and wastewater have accumulated and caused algae in the atoll, internationally known as Union Banks, said Liz Derr, who heads Simularity Inc, a software firm creating artificial-intelligence technologies for satellite imagery analysis.
At least 236 ships were spotted in the atoll on June 17 alone, Derr said at a Philippine online news forum on China’s actions in the South China Sea.
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