The American destroyer Benfold conducted an operation to ensure freedom of navigation in the waters of the Paracel Islands in accordance with international law, the command of the US Seventh Fleet, whose area of responsibility includes the western Pacific Ocean and the eastern Indian Ocean, said.
Earlier, according to the official representative of the Southern Zone of the Combat Command of the People’s Liberation Army of China, Tian Junli, the American missile destroyer Benfold entered the waters of the disputed Xisha Islands (Paracel Islands) in the South China Sea, which China considers its own, without permission, the Chinese military issued a warning to the American ship.
“On July 12, the USS Benfold (DDG 65) defended the rights and freedoms of navigation near the Paracel Islands in accordance with international law. This operation to ensure freedom of navigation supported the rights, freedoms, and legitimate use of the sea recognized by international law, challenging the illegal restrictions on peaceful passage imposed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam, as well as challenging China’s claims to the source lines of the straits surrounding the Paracel Islands,” the Seventh Fleet said in a statement on its website.
As noted in the statement, illegal maritime claims in the South China Sea pose a serious threat to freedom of action at sea for the coastal states of the South China Sea.
“The statement of the PRC about this operation is false. The USS Benfold conducted this operation to ensure freedom of navigation in accordance with international law and then continued to conduct normal operations in international waters,” the press release emphasizes.