Two warships of US has sailed past the handful of disputed islands in the South China Sea which has drawn ire of China. The missile destroyer USS Higgins and the cruiser USS Antietam sailed under the Freedom of Navigation Operation to reinforce the right of free passage from international waters. US Navy officials state that the warships sailed within 12 miles of four of the Paracel Islands.
The whole operation is significant as it is the first time ever since Obama Presidency that two US warships had undertaken such an operation. It was a clear signal of a hardline approach of US towards China. Latter has, in turn, blamed US for encroaching on Beijing’s territory and has urged the US to completely stop such provocative actions which encroach on China’s sovereignty and undermine its security.
One of the major island involved was the Woody Island which was used by China for carrying out military drills involving nuclear-bombers earlier in May.
US has stated that the whole exercise had been done to show support for the regional allies of US especially marked before the visit of the Defence Secretary James Mattis who is scheduled to visit Singapore for the Shangri-La Dialogue 2018. Latter is a vital annual meeting of the top defence analysts and other ministers of the governments of the world. The US has thus said that the whole exercise was to protect freedom of navigation in the South China Sea as it is done elsewhere in the world.
The Chinese government has built many artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea and has done extensive military installations over them. The latest tough line against China was also reiterated when US did not invite China’s military to the biannual RIMPAC drills. Beijing described the move as highly inconsistent and non-constructive. China lays territorial claims on the South China Sea which has been largely negated by the international community. Even a ruling of the international court against the claims by Beijing in 2016 could not change much change in the real status quo.