An F / A-18E Super Hornet prepares for take off from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the South China Sea on Monday, September 6, 2021 (Isaiah Williams / US Navy)
A Navy aircraft carrier strike group and a destroyer crossed the South China Sea separately on Wednesday, just days after China imposed a law requiring foreign ships to give notice before entering them. waters claimed by Beijing.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold “asserted the rights and freedoms of navigation” within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, according to a 7th Fleet press release Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the USS Carl Vinson and his strike group were training elsewhere in the region, according to the Navy.
The entire Spratly chain is claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan; the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei also claim part of it.
Neither warship notified any country with claims in the South China Sea, 7th Fleet spokesman Lt. Mark Langford told Stars and Stripes in an email on Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, the Chinese military issued a statement saying the Benfold entered the area without permission and followed, watched and warned the destroyer.
The statement, attributed to Col. Tian Junli of the Southern Theater Command, said Beijing had “unquestionable sovereignty” over the islands. He also called the United States a “maker of security risks in the South China Sea” and “the greatest destroyer” of regional peace and stability.
The 7th Fleet responded with its own statement Wednesday afternoon, saying the operation was in accordance with international law. He called Beijing’s declaration “the latest in a long series” of actions aimed at distorting Navy operations and “asserting excessive and illegitimate maritime claims.”
China has reclaimed land and built military infrastructure in the Spratleys since 2014, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative. Mischief Reef is an island that China has improved and is occupying.
The Benfold completed the Navy’s seventh freedom of navigation operation in the region this year, according to a Defense Department statement Langford provided to Stars and Stripes. The United States last conducted a freedom of navigation operation in the Spratly Islands in February.
“The United States is contesting excessive maritime claims regardless of which nation is arguing them,” the statement said.
At the end of July, the Benfold crossed the Taiwan Strait, another practice that China regularly condemns.
The Carl Vinson organized air operations and maritime strike exercises and coordinated training between surface and air units on Monday, Carl Vinson spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Miranda Williams said in an email to Stars and Stripes on Tuesday.
“Carrier operations in the South China Sea are neither new nor unusual,” she wrote. “Our Navy has flown, navigated and operated throughout the Indo-Pacific region in accordance with international law for over 75 years and will continue to do so. “
The Carl Vinson carries the Navy’s “Air Wing of the Future”, which includes the F-35C Lighting II stealth fighters and the CMV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft.
On September 1, a Chinese law came into force that requires certain foreign ships, including nuclear-powered ships, submarines and ships carrying hazardous substances, to notify Chinese authorities before entering claimed areas. by China, such as the South China Sea.
Chinese law will not impede US military activities in the region, according to Pentagon spokespersons, who said on Sept. 1 that the navy would sail “where international law permits.”
Beijing’s claims to the South China Sea are described by the “nine-dash line,” a demarcation adopted from a 1947 Chinese map. In 2016, a United Nations tribunal declared some of these claims illegal in under the Convention on the Law of the Sea.