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China claims it has warned a U.S. vessel in South China Sea to stay away

FILE PHOTO: The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold, forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet in the Indo-Pacific region, transits the Philippine Sea, June 14, 2018. Sarah Myers/U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS

A US vessel that entered waters near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea was pursued and warned away by Chinese forces, the country’s military claimed on Thursday, in the latest flare-up in tensions in the disputed waterway.

What they’re saying The People’s Liberation Army’s Southern Theatre Command said the USS Benfold “illegally” entered Chinese territorial waters without permission, infringing on the country’s sovereignty, and that Chinese navy and air forces were tracking the ship.

  • “We earnestly demand that the U.S. side ceases such provocative activities immediately, failing which it will bear the catastrophic repercussions of unanticipated events,” the statement continued.
  • The Benfold “asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the vicinity of Paracel Island, consistent with international law,” said the U.S. Navy.
  • “USS Benfold exited the excessive claim at the conclusion of the mission and continued operations in the South China Sea,” stated 7th Fleet spokesperson Mark Langford.

What’s going on: In the South China Sea, the U.S. often conducts so-called freedom of navigation missions to contest Chinese territorial claims.

  • China has built military installations on man-made islands in international waters that are crossed by important shipping lines and include gas deposits and rich fishing grounds.
  • The South China Sea has become one of many flashpoints in China’s tense relationship with the United States, with Washington dismissing Beijing’s territorial claims as illegal.
  • Huge areas of the South China Sea are claimed by China. Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines all have claims that overlap.
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