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US South China Sea activity is triggering fresh tensions

First time US warship challenged two Chinese military outposts at once in South China Sea, media report says

The U.S. army’s recent activities in South China Sea have triggered reactions from Chinese military, which described it “provocative”, local media said on Thursday.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer was on patrol on Wednesday near disputed reefs claimed by China in the South China Sea. 

Chinese military spokesman Li Huamin on Thursday accused the U.S. of “acting as a hegemony in ignorance of the international laws and rules,” South China Morning Post reported.

He urged Washington to “stop its provocative actions” to avoid an “unpredictable incident”.

Report said that the U.S. destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of Fiery Cross and Mischief reefs, China’s two biggest artificial islands in the disputed Spratly Islands. 

China makes large claims on South China Sea — rich in resources — and the region has witnessed many tensions in the past. 

This was the first time a U.S. warship had challenged two Chinese military outposts at once, according to the report, which also mentioned that some other U.S. military vessels were nearby during the incident. 

The Chinese navy and air forces shadowed, identified, monitored, warned and expelled the destroyer, said the report citing the military official. 

“Our troops will [take] all necessary measures to resolutely defend national sovereignty and security and firmly safeguard the peace and stability in the South China Sea,” Li added. 

However, a spokeswoman for U.S. 7th Fleet Reann Mommsen said: “All operations are designed in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate whatever international law allows,” according to the report.

Competing claims of territorial sovereignty over islands and smaller features in the South China Sea have been longstanding source of tension and distrust in the region

As the disputes over the South China Sea escalate day by day, the global community took several steps to reach a settlement. The UN concluded a law in 1982 due to establish a legal framework to balance the economic and security interest of coastal states.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which came into force in 1994, enshrines a 200-nautical mile area to extend sole exploitation rights to coastal nations over marine resources.

However, the area, officially called as the Exclusive Economic Zone, was never intended to serve as a security zone, and UNCLOS also guarantees wide-ranging passage rights for naval vessels and military aircraft.

Despite being signed and ratified by all concerned countries in the region, the interpretation of UNCLOS in South China Sea is still fiercely disputed.

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