The US Navy's USS Benfold conducted sailed close to Mischief Reef, which China claimed as its property, but the US and Allies denied their claims. Chinese Peoples Liberation Army says the ship crossed and violated their territory, but the US denied it because it followed international law.
Beijing claims that building structure on reefs gives China the right to claim isles that technically belong to another nation. It has militarized the South China Sea and its surrounding seas, prompting navies to challenge them, especially the US Navy, and recently the USS Queen Elizabeth.
China's new maritime rules in the South China Sea
Mischief Reef is getting reclaimed by China by building structures on it to justify its claims. This, in turn, draws in ships that proclaim Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs), reported the Express UK.
Reports indicate that the People's Liberation Army Navy is in the seas, west of the Peninsula of Leizhou, to conduct live rounds in a series of drills on Thursday and Friday. On Wednesday, the Southern Theatre Command of the PLA Navy was part of exercises for amphibious landings.
Recently, China publicized its new maritime rules that all foreign vessels should follow when coming into their claims, including Mischief Reef and the Spratly's, which is contested.
These drills announced by Beijing come after the USS Benfold that came within 12-nautical miles close the Mischief reefs, noted the Hindustan Times. China called it a wrong move, but the US just refuted it.
The 7th Fleet
A spokesman of the 7th Fleet's answer back to the Chinese about its maritime laws is that its claims are untrue. Next, the PLA Navy said it warned the US warship to leave the area.
Specifically, the statement said the PLA Southern Theatre Command's joint forces tracked the intruder and monitored its path, then warned it to leave the area, cited AP News.
The US Navy simply answered back to the PLA Navy, harshly stating their statement was not valid. Saying the USS Benfold did the FONOPs following the rules of international law. Next, it went ahead with its path of normal operations. On many occasions, even during the pandemic, the PLA has pursued its agenda while the coronavirus burdens other countries.
One explanation about China's claims is that international law is governed by the Law of the Sea Convention, which defines territories. The US contests that Mischief Reef, when covered at the high time by the sea, if not built up, should not have a Territorial Sea at all. Even if the land is reclaimed, building installation, even with the facilities on the reef, will not change the fact it is still submerged at times. This definition disqualifies it.
Since 2017, China has made several military complexes in the Spratlys, with the Mischief Reef included, that are not lawful. It worsens as Beijing is illegally taking these reefs and belligerent to other countries in the Indo-Pacific region. Whenever US navy warships go by these isles, the PLAN is very loud in condemning these vessels.
Passage of the USS Carl Vinson was confirmed via intelligence, passing the Bashi channel last Monday. The new law states that foreign vessels must give notice when passing with the USS Benfold steaming close to the Mischief Reef, challenging Chinese claims.
Related Article: Brexit UK a Prominent Military Force in the South China Sea Conflict