Michael Cardinal, FISM News
The US Navy dispatched a cruiser near one of the Spratly Islands on Wednesday to challenge the “excessive maritime claims” of the communist nation.
The USS Benfold, a member of the Navy’s 7th fleet, conducted a Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) where they sailed within 12 miles of Mischief Reef as part of “normal operations.”
— U.S. Pacific Fleet (@USPacificFleet) September 8, 2021
A Chinese military official condemned the US actions, saying that they had “seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security” adding, “More and more facts have proved that the US is the biggest risk and peace breaker for the stability and peace in the region.”
The Navy issued a statement condemning the Chinese claims about the incident, and said that this was another attempt by the PRC to “misrepresent lawful U.S. maritime operations.” The statement also reiterated that the US would continue to operate in the contested area despite China’s false claims over the waterway:
The United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as USS Benfold did here. Nothing PRC says otherwise will deter us.
China continues to assert widespread claims over the South China Sea and has instituted an island building campaign to give credence to their allegations. The Mischief Reef is part of this campaign as Bejing has put a runway and other infrastructure on the atoll. The reef, however, is also claimed by Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Phillipines.
Paracel Island; Scalborough Shoal; Spartly Ispand pic.twitter.com/imLKG4HJO0
— Nilaya Mitash Shanker (@nilayashanker10) September 18, 2020
The US rejects Chinese authority over these islands citing international law:
Under international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention, features like Mischief Reef that are submerged at high tide in their naturally formed state are not entitled to a territorial sea. The land reclamation efforts, installations, and structures built on Mischief Reef do not change this characterization under international law.