(HorizonPost.com) – China on Monday accused a US Navy ship of illegally entering the waters adjacent to the Second Thomas Shoal, a disputed atoll in the South China Sea that has been the recent site of several confrontations, Reuters reported.
In a statement on Monday, China’s Southern Theater of Operations accused the United States of seriously undermining regional stability and peace and violating China’s sovereignty by disrupting the South China Sea.
China has long claimed sovereignty over extensive areas of the South China Sea leading to multiple disputes with several neighboring countries, including Japan and the Philippines.
On Sunday, Coast Guard vessels from the Philippines were deployed to the South China Sea after it monitored an “alarming” increase in Chinese maritime militia vessels at one reef within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
According to the US Navy, the Independence-class littoral combat ship the USS Gabrielle Giffords on Monday was conducting routine operations in international waters consistent with international law.
In a statement, the US Navy said the 7th Fleet has operated in the South China Sea every day for decades, demonstrating that the US is “committed to upholding a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
According to China’s Southern Theater of Operations, the USS Gabrielle Giffords moved into the Renai Reef, China’s name for the Second Thomas Shoal.
The Second Thomas Shoal, which is part of the Spratly Islands, is along the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, according to a 2016 tribunal ruling by the United Nations.
China said it monitored and followed the USS Gabrielle Giffords and that its “troops in the theater” were placed on high alert “to resolutely defend national sovereignty.”
In response to the Chinese military’s bluster, the US Navy reiterated that the United States would not be “deterred” from working alongside its allies and partners to support their “shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
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