China has accused the United States of undermining regional peace and stability by illegally intruding into its South China Sea territorial waters. The US naval ship, USS Gabrielle Giffords, was tracked by a Chinese naval force near the Second Thomas Shoal, which is part of the Spratly Islands and a center of territorial dispute between China and the Philippines.
The People’s Liberation Army Southern Theater released a statement asserting that the US deliberately disrupted the situation in the South China Sea, seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security, undermined regional peace and stability, and violated international law and basic norms governing international relations.
The Second Thomas Shoal, also known as Ayungin Shoal in the Philippines, is located about 195km northwest of the Philippine province of Palawan. It has been the site of several incidents as Manila has sought to resupply a warship intentionally run aground in 1999 to serve as a military outpost.
The US military responded to China’s accusations by stating that the USS Gabrielle Giffords was conducting routine operations in international waters consistent with international law. Beijing lays claim to most of the South China Sea, despite an international tribunal decision contrary to these claims.
Manila has accused Beijing of aggressive efforts to assert its territorial ambitions and has sought support from US forces, which have a major military presence in the South China Sea. The US has worked with the Philippines to maintain a dominant presence in these waters in exchange for an expansion of the US military presence in the country.
Earlier this year, the US and the Philippines launched the largest-ever military drills near the Second Thomas Shoal, and last month the two militaries began sea and air patrols in the area. China insists that the US is meddling in waters far from its shores and has renewed its accusation that America is the one raising regional tensions.
The US Navy’s 7th Fleet, based in Japan, has stated that its operations in the South China Sea demonstrate a commitment to upholding a free and open Indo-Pacific region where all nations, large and small, are secure in their sovereignty, can resolve disputes without coercion, and have the freedom to navigate and fly consistent with international laws, rules, and norms.
The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam have all staked claims to various islands and reefs in the sea, which is believed to have rich petroleum reserves deep beneath its bed.
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