US Navy sails through South China Sea as Beijing conducts military drills around Taiwan

China US South China Sea
In this photo provided by the U.S. Navy, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69) conducts routine underway operations in South China Sea, Friday March 24, 2023. China threatened “serious consequences” Friday, after the U.S. Navy sailed a destroyer around the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea the second day in a row, which Beijing claimed was a violation of its sovereignty and security.(Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Greg Johnson/U.S. Navy via AP) MC1 Greg Johnson/AP

US Navy sails through South China Sea as Beijing conducts military drills around Taiwan

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A U.S. Navy destroyer sailed through the South China Sea on Monday, which Beijing claims as its own.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Milius sailed within 12 nautical miles, the internationally recognized limit of a nation’s territorial waters, of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands.

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China has claimed vast amounts of territory within the South China Sea and has claimed the territorial waters are theirs, though the United States disputes those claims of sovereignty.

“Unlawful and sweeping maritime claims 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 commerce, and freedom of economic opportunity for South China Sea littoral nations,” the 7th Fleet said in a statement.

“The United States upholds freedom of navigation for all nations as a principle,” it continued. “As long as some countries continue to claim and assert limits on rights that exceed their authority under international law, the United States will continue to defend the rights and freedoms of the sea guaranteed to all.”

Chinese leaders have denounced similar U.S. military operations in the region as an infringement on its sovereignty and a threat to its security and did so again this time.

“China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters,” said Air Force Senior Col. Tian Junli, the spokesperson for the Chinese PLA Southern Theater Command, on Monday. “The troops of the PLA Southern Theater Command will always stay on high alert and resolutely safeguard China’s national sovereignty and security, as well as peace and stability in the South China Sea.”

Monday’s maneuver by the USS Milius came as Chinese forces entered their third day of large-scale military exercises around the island of Taiwan, the self-governing island within the South China Sea that Beijing also claims is its territory despite Taiwan’s objection.

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The Chinese military’s drills around Taiwan come in response to the island’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in California during a recent 10-day visit to Central and North America. After returning to Taiwan, Tsai met with members of a U.S. congressional delegation who said she told them that the Taiwanese will have the “will to fight” against a possible Chinese invasion during a closed-door meeting.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has said he wants the country’s military to be prepared to take Taiwan by force by 2027, though senior Pentagon officials have described it as a goal but not an already determined decision.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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