US War Ships to Test Chinese South Sea Sovereignty a Third Time

Naval vessels from five nations sail in parade formation for a rare photographic opportunity at sea. From top row left to right: the Italian Navy (Marina Militare) ship Maestrale Class Frigate MM MAESTRALE (F 570), French Navy Tourville Class Destroyer DE GRASSE (D 612), Nimitz Class Aircraft Carrier USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN 74), US Navy (USN) Ticonderoga Class Cruisers USS PORT ROYAL (CG 73), French Navy Charles de Gaulle Class Aircraft Carrier CHARLES DE GAULLE (R 91), Royal Navy Helicopter Carrier, Her MajestyÕs Ship (HMS) OCEAN (L 12), French La Fayette Class Frigate SURCOUF (F 711), Aircraft Carrier USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV 67), Netherlands Navy Karel Doorman Class Frigate Her MajestyÕs Netherlands Ship (Harer Majesteits) (HNLMS) VAN AMSTEL (F 831), Italian Navy De La Penne (ex-Animoso) Class Destroyer, MM LUIGI DURAND DE LA PENNE (ex Animoso) (D 560). The coalition forces are deployed in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.

US Naval forces are planning to lead another contingent nearby the heavily disputed islands in the South China Sea early this month, a source acquainted with the arrangement said on Friday.

This will be the third such effort which have drawn sharp rebukes from China.

It was not immediately clear about the exact timing of the activity and what sectors of the US armada would enter the 12-nautical mile boundary around the islands.

The US has led what it calls “freedom of navigation” activities of late, cruising within disputed water surrounding islands claimed by a multitude of countries in the region as an effort underscore its right to travel in the region. Naval authorities have said they plan to intensify such activities going forward.

The USS Stennis carrier strike group is presently working in the South China Sea. US officials have said that the next activities are likely to be by a smaller group.

Some security experts have said they anticipate that the next effort will be to test Chinese claims in the South China Sea by Mischief Reef, claimed by the Philippines. Previously submerged, China has dredged Mischief Reef, creating a man-made island in order to build three military-length landing strips.

The South China Sea boasts more than $5 trillion worth of international exchange shipping each year. China has made claims on a vast majority of the region along with Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan.

The US has regularly patrolled the area as a result often finding themselves shadowed by Chinese boats further straining US-China relations.

News of the US patrol plans came come just after US President Barack Obama’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at a nuclear security summit in Washington.

Chinese President Xi Jinping responded by saying that China would not tolerate any violation of its sovereignty and breaching its security interests under the pretext of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

“China respects and protects the freedom of air and maritime navigation of all countries, based on international law. At the same time, Beijing will not accept any action that damages China’s state sovereignty and national interests under the pretext of freedom of navigation,” he told Xinhua.

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