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South China Sea: US addresses Spratly Islands challenges for freedom of navigation




As part of a so-called freedom of navigation operation, the guided-missile destroyer USS Russell smoked within 12 nautical miles of the Spratly Islands in the southern portion of the 1.3 million square mile waterway, which the China claims almost entirely as its sovereign territory.

“This Freedom of Navigation Operation (” FONOP “) confirmed the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea recognized by international law by challenging the illegal restrictions on innocent passage imposed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan,” US Navy 7th Fleet spokesman Lt. Joe Keiley said in a statement.

Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines also have claims in the Spratly Range, where China has turned obscure reefs and sandbanks into man-made man-made islands, fortified with missiles, tracks, and weapon systems.

“The illicit and radical maritime claims in the South China Sea pose a serious threat to the freedom of the sea, including the freedoms of navigation and overflight, free trade and unfettered commerce, and freedom of opportunity economic benefits for the coastal nations of the South China Sea, ”Keiley said in the statement.

The US Navy operations come after US President Joe Biden described China as the US’s “most serious competitor” and laid out plans to deal with “Beijing’s attack on human rights. human rights, intellectual property and global governance ”.

Biden also said Washington was in “extreme competition” with China.

Since taking office on January 20, the Biden administration has reaffirmed its commitment to U.S. allies and partners in the region, specifically advising the Philippines and Japan that their islands also claimed by China are covered by defense treaties. mutual that oblige Washington to defend them. China says US naval operations in the South China Sea are fueling tensions and violating its sovereignty.

The warship entered Chinese territory, “seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security, severely undermined regional peace and stability, and deliberately disrupted the good atmosphere of peace, friendship and cooperation in China. South China Sea, ”the report said.

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