Beijing, Jul 13 (EFE).- The Chinese army said Wednesday it “drove” away the American destroyer USS Benfold after passing through waters near the Paracel Islands, in the South China Sea, an area Beijing disputes with several Southeast Asian countries.
According to a statement from the Chinese Army, its Southern Theater of Operations dispatched “naval and air forces to track, warn and drive away” the United States destroyer that, according to Beijing, “illegally crossed Chinese territorial waters” near the Xisha Islands, as China calls the Paracels.
Authorities said “these actions seriously violate the sovereignty and security of China, as they represent an illegal entry into our territorial waters” near the Paracels, claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.
The US navy said in a statement that its destroyer reaffirmed “the right and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea under international law,” a type of operation that Washington regularly carries out in response to what he qualifies as “restrictions on the free passage of vessels imposed by China.”
According to Washington, “China’s maritime claims in that sea pose a serious threat to the freedom of the seas, including the freedoms of navigation and overflight, free trade, and freedom of economic opportunity for littoral nations.”
Beijing said it does not impede freedom of navigation in these waters and accused the US of deliberately provoking tensions.
Tension in the South China Sea, where Vietnam, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia or Taiwan have disputes with Beijing, has increased in recent years with altercations, cross accusations between the countries and an increase in military presence due to part of the Chinese army.
Washington accuses Beijing of “coercing and intimidating” the countries in the area and describes its territorial claims as “illegal,” emphasizing rulings such as the Hague Court in favor of the Philippines in 2016 over the dispute over an atoll in off-shore waters that sea. EFE