A U.S. Navy sailed a second ship through the South China Seas this week, further challenging Beijing’s claim to the disputed waters after the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) claimed that it expelled the first ship amid escalating tensions over the disputed region and the global pandemic, Newsweek writes.
The USS Barry carried out the “freedom of navigation operation” on Tuesday, the Navy said in a statement to Newsweek. Their mission was to maintain the “rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea recognized in international law.”
“Unlawful and sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea pose an unprecedented threat to the freedom of the seas, including the freedoms of navigation and overflight and the right of innocent passage of all ships,” the Navy said.
After the incident, the PLA’s Southern Theatre Command, which oversees the disputed region, released a statement on Chinese social media claiming that their forces responded by forcing the USS Barry out of the island chain. The PLA said that ships and aircrafts were sent to “track, monitor, verify, identify and expel” the American warship from Paracel Island.
The Chinese military also accused the U.S. of seriously violating “international law and China’s sovereignty and security interests” by engaging in “provocative acts.”
The U.S. Navy’s action was “incompatible with the current joint efforts of the international community to fight against the COVID-19,” the PLA said in a statement shared to the military’s Chinese social media, according to the South China Morning Post. “These provocative acts by the U.S. side … seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security interests, deliberately increased regional security risks and could easily trigger an unexpected incident.”