China accuses US Navy of unauthorized entry into South China Sea


United States: The Chinese military has accused the US Navy of an unauthorized incursion into the waters near the Second Thomas Shoal on Monday, a contested atoll in the South China Sea, as reported by Reuters. This area has been a frequent site of maritime tensions.

A spokesperson for the Southern Theater of Operations, representing China, voiced strong criticism, accusing the United States of disturbing the South China Sea and violating China’s sovereignty. The spokesperson remarked, “The US seriously undermined regional peace and stability.”

China’s concerns were detailed in reports by Reuters, stating that US ships were observed monitoring the waters near Renai Reef (referred to as such by China), previously known as the Second Thomas Shoal and part of the Spratly Islands.

US Navy Vessel in waters
US Navy Vessel in waters

Renai Reef falls within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, according to a 2016 ruling by the United Nations. The Chinese military spokesperson conveyed that the US vessel was closely watched, and Chinese troops were on high alert to defend national sovereignty.

In response, a US Navy representative stated, “We will not be deterred from continuing to work alongside our allies and partners in support of our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The US Navy clarified that the USS Gabrielle Giffords, an Independent-class littoral combat ship, was in international waters for routine operations in the South China Sea. They emphasized that these operations adhered to international law, with the statement reading, “Every day, the US 7th Fleet operates in the South China Sea, as they have for decades. These operations demonstrate we are committed to upholding a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”

China has been embroiled in disputes with neighboring countries over its expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea, according to reports by Reuters. Recent protests by Chinese authorities focused on US ship patrols in disputed areas, and there have been clashes with Philippine vessels.

Reports also highlighted the deployment of two Philippine Coast Guard vessels in the South China Sea in response to an “alarming” increase in Chinese maritime militia vessels in the exclusive economic zone.