The Pentagon has confirmed it sent a warship into the disputed South China Sea in order to uphold freedom-of-navigation laws and to challenge nations’ attempts to restrict passage in the region.
The USS Curtis Wilbur sailed within 12-nautical-miles of Triton Island, which is administered by China.
“The United States will fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” said US Department of Defense Spokesperson Mark Wright. “That is true in the South China Sea, as in other places around the globe.”
He added that the operation “challenged attempts by the three claimants, China, Taiwan and Vietnam, to restrict navigation rights and freedoms around the features they claim by policies that require prior permission or notification of transit within territorial seas.”
China did not approve of the voyage, according to Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying.
Wright said the US warship entered the waters without notifying officials in the region, a move Washington insists is not necessary under international law.
Yang Yujun, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defense, called the operation a “deliberate provocation” and he warned it could trigger extremely dangerous consequences.
Triton Island is part of the Paracel Island chain, which sits on the disputed South China Sea. Beijing claims about 80 percent of this resource-rich region which serves as the passageway for more than $1 trillion worth of ship-borne goods each year.