US warship challenges China’s territorial water
The USS Dewey guided missile destroyer has reportedly sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, apparently challenging Beijing’s sovereignty claims over disputed island chain.
If indeed the USS Dewey sailed within 12 nautical miles of the disputed land, then Washington seemingly violated China’s territorial claims. Territorial waters are defined by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as a belt of coastal waters extending 12 nautical miles from the coast.
In a statement to The Japan Times, the Pentagon refused to confirm or deny the report. The Wall Street Journal also failed to get a definitive answer from the Pentagon.
“We operate in the Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea,” Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, told the publication in a statement.
“We operate in accordance with international law,” he added, emphasizing the patrols are “not about any one country, or any one body of water.”
The alleged intrusion into the disputed waters comes at a delicate time when Trump is seeking Xi Jinping’s cooperation to resolve North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile question. While Beijing has yet to issue a comment regarding the latest incident, China has strongly condemned such actions in the past.
China says it respects the principles of freedom of navigation and overflight but disapproves when other states undermine its sovereignty using this pretext.
Beijing has laid claim to nearly all of the resource-rich South China Sea, through which some $5 trillion worth of trade passes each year. The Spratly Islands, or Spratlys, comprising more than 750 islets, atolls, and reefs, have also been caught up in the multinational dispute, with the claimants having their own national names for the archipelago.
The United States has criticized China’s construction of man-made islands and build-up of military facilities in the sea and expressed concern they could be used to restrict free movement.
US allies and partners in the region had grown anxious as the new administration held off on carrying out South China Sea operations during its first few months in office.