China Claims U.S. Warship ‘Illegally’ Entered Waters Around Paracel Islands

This photo taken on May 5, 2016 shows crew members of China's South Sea Fleet taking part
STR/AFP via Getty Images

The Chinese military claimed on Thursday that it monitored and “warned off” an American warship, the guided-missile destroyer USS Milius, after it “illegally entered” waters claimed by China around the Paracel Islands. 

The U.S. Navy quickly dismissed every word in the Chinese statement as a lie, stating that the Milius was not forced to change course, and pointing out that China has no legal authority to interfere with navigation in the Paracels.

Speaking for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Southern Theater Command, Chinese air force Col. Tian Junli said:

On March 23, the U.S. guided-missile destroyer USS Milius illegally entered the territorial waters near China’s Xisha Islands without the Chinese government’s permission. The naval and aerial forces of the Chinese PLA Southern Theater Command conducted whole-process tracking and monitoring on the U.S. destroyer in accordance with the law, and warned it off.

“Xisha” is the name China uses for the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, a chain also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. China has been illegally enhancing and militarizing features in the Paracels in defiance of a 2016 ruling by an international tribunal that rejected Beijing’s claims over the entire South China Sea region.

The PLA said the American warship “illegally broke into” Chinese waters “without the Chinese government’s approval.”

“This move has violated China’s sovereignty, posed a threat to China’s security and jeopardized the peace and stability in the relevant waters,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a press conference on Thursday.

“The U.S. should immediately stop such infringement and provocation,” said Wang.

The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet confirmed the Milius, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer that recently completed joint exercises with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force in the Sea of Japan, conducted a Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) near the Paracels, but said the People’s Republic of China (PRC) did not interfere with the operation in any way.

“The PRC’s statement is false,” said Cmdr. Haley Sims, spokeswoman for the 7th Fleet.

“USS Milius (DDG 69) is conducting routine operations in the South China Sea and was not expelled. The United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” Sims said.

The Associated Press (AP) on Thursday quoted another 7th Fleet spokesman who would not give details about how close the Milius came to the Paracel Islands, or whether “any sort of confrontation” occurred.


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