China says on Monday it drove a United States Navy ship out of a disputed area of the South China Sea.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said it sent ships and planes to the area around the Paracel Islands, a group of small islands and reefs.
The PLA said it acted after the U.S.S. Benfold destroyer ship entered the waters. Chinese forces “warned them and drove them away,” the PLA said in a statement posted on social media.
China has controlled all the Paracel Islands since 1974. But the island group is also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.
The Paracel Islands are “China’s inherent territory,” the PLA said. It added that “the actions of the U.S. military have seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security.”
China claims large parts of the South China Sea. Other claimants include Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan. China says its claims come from historical usage of the waters. Trillions of dollars of trade flow through the waters each year.
The U.S. Navy rejected the Chinese statement. In its own statement, the Navy did not provide details about the incident involving Chinese forces. But it said the U.S.S. Benfold entered the waters “in accordance with international law.” The ship “then continued on to conduct normal operations in international waters,” the statement said.
The U.S. Navy said the Chinese statement was “the latest in a long string of (Chinese) actions to misrepresent lawful U.S. maritime operations…”
The U.S. does not claim any part of the South China Sea. But it sends ships to the area to carry out “freedom of navigation” exercises. Such operations are meant to show military force and support free movement of shipping in international waters.
China has angered other claimants in recent years by creating small man-made islands in some disputed areas of the sea and building military equipment on some of the land.
In 2016, an international court ruled in favor of the Philippines in a case that disputed China's historical claims to large areas of the sea. China rejects the ruling, which it has called a “sham.”
On Sunday, the administration of President Joe Biden confirmed its support for the 2016 ruling. In a statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused China of threatening international freedom of movement activities in the waterway.
Blinken also warned that an attack by Chinese forces on Philippine ships or aircraft “would invoke” existing defense agreements between the U.S. and the Philippines. A 1951 treaty binds the two nations to come to each other’s aid in case of an attack.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
The Associated Press reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
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Words in This Story
reef – n. a line of rocks or sand near the surface of the sea
inherent – adj. existing as a natural and basic part of something
sovereignty – n. the power of a country to control its own government
accordance – n. agreement; conformity
conduct – v. to organize or do something
string – n. a series of things arranged in or as if in a line
maritime – adj. of or relating to the sea
navigation – n. moving a boat or ship over an area of water
sham – n. something that is not what it seems to be and is intended to deceive people
invoke – v. to use a law, rule, etc. to support what you are saying or doing
bind – v. to force someone to keep a promise