Berlin (EAST SEA) Wednesday, November 29th, 2023 / 03:27 AM

China, US exchange accusations over US vessel in South China Sea

China and the United States exchanged accusations at the weekend over the disputed South China Sea, after China’s military said it had driven away a U.S. warship that the U.S. Navy said was on a routine freedom of navigation operation.

The U.S. Navy said on Sunday that the Hopper had “asserted navigational rights in the South China Sea near the Paracel Islands, consistent with international law”. According to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Southern Theatre Command on Saturday, the Chinese military deployed its naval and air forces to “track, monitor and warn away” the U.S. destroyer.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a conduit for more than $3 trillion of annual ship-borne commerce, including parts claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 said China’s claims had no legal basis.

Lieutenant Kristina Weidemann, deputy spokesperson for the U.S. 7th Fleet, said in an emailed statement: “The United States challenges excessive maritime claims around the world regardless of the identity of the claimant.

Meanwhile, the Philippines and Australia began their first joint sea and air patrols in the sea on Saturday, days after Beijing accused Manila of enlisting foreign forces to patrol the South China Sea, referring to joint patrols by the Philippine and U.S. militaries.

Liu Jianchao, the Chinese Communist Party’s international minister, gave a warning to Australia while speaking at a Sydney university during a trip that paves the way for President Xi Jinping’s Australian visit, expected to take place next year.

Liu Jianchao, the Chinese Communist Party’s international minister

Bilateral relations had been improving recently, but took a downturn when Australia accused the Chinese destroyer CNS Ningbo of injuring Australian navy divers with sonar pulses in Japanese waters on Nov. 14. Australia said China disregarded a safety warning to keep away from the Australian frigate HMAS Toowoomba.

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