No, China Did Not 'Expel' a US Warship from its Territory, Navy Says
Navy officials say China's claims that it used naval and air forces to evict a U.S. destroyer from its territory this week are false.
A senior colonel with the Chinese People's Liberation Army said Tuesday that it "evicted" the destroyer John S. McCain from waters near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. The allegations were published in the Global Times, a Chinese state newspaper.
But Navy officials say the statement is "the latest in a long line" of Chinese efforts to misrepresent legitimate US shipping operations in the region.
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"The statement made by [People's Republic of China] about this mission is wrong," said Lt. Joe Keiley, a spokesman for the US 7th Fleet. "The USS John S. McCain was not 'evicted' from any nation."
The McCain conducted a free navigation operation in the South China Sea on Tuesday. The operation upheld the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea recognized in international law by challenging the innocent transit restrictions imposed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan, officials said in a press release Tuesday of the mission.
These three countries - together with Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei - each claim ownership of the archipelago. In Tuesday's press release, Navy officials said illegal and far-reaching maritime claims seriously threaten the freedom of the seas.
"The international community has an enduring role to play in upholding the freedom of the seas, which is vital to global security, stability and prosperity," the press release said.
China described McCain's movements as a "grave violation" of its sovereignty and security, adding that the operation "seriously disrupted peace and stability in the South China Sea." According to the Global Times, the troops there are "on high alert at all times" and will emphatically carry out their tasks and missions to safeguard national sovereignty and security as well as peace and stability in the region. "
Keiley said the U.S. military will continue to fly, sail and operate where international law allows, as McCain did on Tuesday.
"The behavior of the PRC is contrary to the United States' compliance with international law and our vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region," he added. "All nations, large and small, should be secure in their sovereignty, free from coercion and be able to achieve economic growth that conforms to recognized international rules and standards."
- Gina Harkins can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.
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