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Warship rivalry continues in South China Sea

The guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70) departs San Diego Harbor. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Mark D. Faram.

The People’s Republic of China has claimed success in warning off guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper from the South China Sea.

The People’s Republic of China has claimed success in warning off guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper from the South China Sea.

US Navy destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70) was asserting navigational rights and freedoms during a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea near the Paracel Islands on 25 November, consistent with international law.

Senior Colonel Tian Junli, spokesman for the PLA’s Southern Theater Command, said the Chinese military had warned off a United States warship that illegally entered China’s territorial waters off the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea without the approval of the Chinese government.


Chinese theatre command had organised air and naval forces to follow and monitor the guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper, and drove it away according to law, he said.

USS Hopper exited the excessive claim area at the conclusion of the operation and continued operations in the South China Sea, according to a statement made by US 7th Fleet Public Affairs.

“The People’s Republic of China, Vietnam, and Taiwan each claim sovereignty over the Paracel Islands,” the statement said.

“All three claimants require either permission or advance notification before a military vessel or warship engages in ‘innocent passage’ through their territorial sea, in violation of international law.

“Under customary international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention, the ships of all states, including their warships, enjoy the right of innocent passage through a territorial sea.

“The unilateral imposition of any authorisation or advance-notification requirement for innocent passage in unlawful.

“By engaging in innocent passage without giving prior notification to or asking permission from any of the claimants, the United States challenged these unlawful restrictions imposed by the PRC, Taiwan, and Vietnam. The United States demonstrated that innocent passage in not subject to such restrictions.

“Unlawful and sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea pose a serious threat to the freedom of the seas, including the freedoms of navigation and overflight, free trade and unimpeded commerce, and freedom of economic opportunity for South China Sea littoral nations.”

The United States upholds freedom of navigation for all nations as a principle and follows international law reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, which protects certain rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea enjoyed by all nations, according to the statement.

“As long as some countries continue to claim and assert limits on rights that exceed their authority under international law, the United States will continue to defend the rights and freedoms of the sea guaranteed to all. No member of the international community should be intimidated or coerced into giving up their rights and freedoms.

“US forces operate in the South China Sea on a daily basis, as they have for more than a century. They routinely operate in close coordination with like-minded allies and partners that share our commitment to uphold a free and open international order that promotes security and prosperity.”

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