China has scrambled a fleet of maritime vessels and fighter jets to intercept the American aircraft carrier USS Stethem which illegally sailed into Chinese waters.
America’s move was a clearly provocative measure designed to test patience over China’s claims to sovereignty over 90% of the South China Sea and the islands therein. The US has repeatedly rejected Chinese claims over the disputed islands, although under President Rodrigo Duterte, Philippines has largely dropped any claims to the region and has adopted a conciliatory approach to China. Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei as well as the disputed province of Chinese Taipei (unilaterally governed as Taiwan) continue to maintain their claims.
This incident comes days after the US agreed to a sale of weapons to Chinese Taipei.
China issued a statement saying,
“Under the pretext of ‘navigation freedom’, the US side once again sent a military vessel into China’s territorial waters off the Xisha Islands without China’s approval. Its behaviour has violated the Chinese law and relevant international law, infringed upon China’s sovereignty, disrupted peace, security and order of the relevant waters and put in jeopardy the facilities and personnel on the Chinese islands, and thus constitutes a serious political and military provocation. The Chinese side is dissatisfied with and opposed to the relevant behaviour of the US side”.
China warned the US to, “immediately stop such kind of provocative operations that violate China’s sovereignty and threaten China’s security”.
This combined with Japan turning against China’s One Belt–One Road trade and commerce project as well as the South Korean President’s recent visit to the US during which Donald Trump said that the era of “strategic patience with North Korea is over”, all coalesce around today’s event in the South China Sea to form a kind of united front against China centred around the United States.
American provocations to China, in China’s region are highly dangerous. The US is playing with fire in the South China Sea.