Chinese Military Accuses US Destroyer of Illegal Intrusion Into Waters of Paracel Islands
BEIJING (Sputnik) - American guided missile destroyer USS Milius entered the waters of the disputed Paracel Islands, also known as the Xisha Islands, in the South China Sea without notifying China, Tian Junli, a spokesperson of People's Liberation Army (PLA) Southern Theater Command, said on Thursday.
"The US guided missile destroyer USS Milius illegally entered the territorial waters of the Chinese Xisha Islands on March 23 without the permission of the Chinese government, thereby undermining peace and stability in the South China Sea," Tian said in a statement on WeChat.
PLA's navy grouping of the Southern Theater Command escorted the US vessel and warned it to leave the area, the spokesperson added.
Tian also noted that the troops of the Southern Theater Command will continue to maintain a high level of combat readiness and take all necessary measures to resolutely protect national sovereignty and security, as well as peace and stability in the South China Sea.
Beijing has long been disputing ownership of several hydrocarbon-rich islands in the South China Sea with several Asia-Pacific countries. The territories include the Paracel archipelago, the Spratly Islands, and the Scarborough Shoal.
In July 2016, following a lawsuit filed by the Philippines, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that China had no grounds for territorial claims in the South China Sea. According to the court, the disputed territories of the Spratly archipelago are not considered as islands in the legal sense, but rather rocks or low-tide elevations which do not form an exclusive economic zone. Beijing, in turn, said that it did not consider the decision of the court valid and did not recognize it.
The situation in the sea region is often complicated by the passage of US warships, which, according to Beijing, violate international law and undermine China's sovereignty and security. Washington has said that US forces will continue to operate wherever international law allows, including the South China Sea.
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