The Biden administration has sent a strong message to Beijing as US destroyer ‘USS John S. McCain’ performed a “freedom of navigation operation” in the disputed South China Sea.
On Friday, the US Navy’s 7th Fleet said in a statement that an American warship had sailed near the Chinese-controlled Paracel Islands in the disputed South China Sea in a freedom of navigation operation (FONOP).
While referring to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, the statement said that the USS John S. McCain “asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the vicinity of the Paracel Islands, consistent with international law”.
The FONOP mission challenged the “unlawful restrictions on innocent passage [in the area] imposed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam”, it said. According to reports, the warship carried out operations in the region after sailing through the Taiwan Strait.
Meanwhile, the Chinese media claimed that the “Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) expelled US destroyer USS John S. McCain after it trespassed into China’s territorial waters in Xisha Islands in the South China Sea”.
7th Fleet Destroyer conducts Freedom of Navigation Operation in South China Sea
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— 7th Fleet (@US7thFleet) February 5, 2021
The US moves seriously infringed China’s sovereignty and security, said Tian Junli, a spokesperson for the PLA Southern Theater Command, adding that Chinese troops will maintain high alert at all times to protect the peace and stability of the region.
With this, the Biden administration has indicated that the US will undertake more such missions anywhere international law allows. While China considers the South China Sea as part of its territory and has built military bases on artificial islands, the US has raised objections over these claims and termed Chinese occupation as illegal and against international law.
An American aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt had entered the South China Sea last month “to conduct routine operations” in the area.
The US Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) had said: “The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (TRCSG) is on a scheduled deployment to the US 7th Fleet to ensure freedom of the seas, build partnerships that foster maritime security, and conduct a wide range of operations”.