Pentagon Accuses Beijing of Endangering Freedom of Navigation Amid South China Sea Spat
15:36 GMT 02.09.2021 (Updated: 13:23 GMT 06.08.2022)
Beijing has for decades been in a dispute with a number of other Asia-Pacific countries on the territorial status of islands in the South China Sea, where the US often stages “freedom of navigation” missions.
The US Department of Defence has accused Beijing of undermining international law after the Chinese government tightened the screws on its regulations related to foreign vessels entering what China sees as its territorial waters.
Pentagon spokesperson John Supple said in a statement on Thursday that “the United States remains firm that any coastal state law or regulation must not infringe upon navigation and overflight rights enjoyed by all nations under international law”.
He argued that “unlawful and sweeping maritime claims, including in the South China Sea, pose a serious threat to the freedom of the seas, including the freedoms of navigation and overflight, free trade and unimpeded lawful commerce, and the rights and interests of South China Sea and other littoral nations”.
The statement came a few days after Beijing announced that all foreign vessels entering Chinese “territorial waters” are obliged to report their ship and cargo information to the country’s maritime authorities.
© REUTERS / CHINA STRINGER NETWORKA nuclear-powered Type 094A Jin-class ballistic missile submarine of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy is seen during a military display in the South China Sea April 12, 2018
A nuclear-powered Type 094A Jin-class ballistic missile submarine of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy is seen during a military display in the South China Sea April 12, 2018
© REUTERS / CHINA STRINGER NETWORK
The new regulations pertain to submersibles, nuclear-powered vessels, and ships carrying potentially hazardous cargo, such as oil, liquefied gas, and toxic chemicals.
The announcement followed US Vice President Kamala Harris saying during a visit to Vietnam last week that regional nations should do more to oppose China’s territorial claims.
“We need to find ways to pressure and raise the pressure, frankly, on Beijing to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and to challenge its bullying and excessive maritime claims”, she stressed.
The remarks were preceded by Dai Bing, China’s deputy ambassador to the UN, lashing out at US Secretary of State Antony Blinken over his claims that Beijing is responsible for the “dangerous” situation in the South China Sea and that the People’s Republic’s maritime claims to the body of water are “unlawful”.
© AP Photo / Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Kimani J. WintIn this photo provided by U.S. Navy, USS Nimitz (CVN 68) steams alongside the Navy's only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76, not in photo) in the South China Sea, Monday, July 6, 2020.
In this photo provided by U.S. Navy, USS Nimitz (CVN 68) steams alongside the Navy's only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76, not in photo) in the South China Sea, Monday, July 6, 2020.
© AP Photo / Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Kimani J. Wint
The US, not Beijing “has become the biggest threat to peace and stability in the South China Sea”, the Chinese diplomat suggested, adding that Washington has deemed that it has the authority to make judgements based on the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea despite wilfully refusing to join the convention.
The South China Sea and the East China Sea, situated in the Asian-Pacific region, are sources of tension for China and its neighbours, including Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines, as these nations continue to argue over the waters' maritime borders. Beijing, in particular, considers the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea as its territory, despite an international tribunal ruling that these claims have no legal basis.
The US has no territorial claims to the area, but often conducts so-called freedom of navigation missions in the South China Sea, which have been slammed by Beijing as provocations.