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Amid COVID-19, China still wants the South China Sea

The Chinese government is bragging that they “expelled” a U.S. warship.

While the world is still trying to wrap its collective head around COIVD-19, China is still trying to be a bully in the South China Sea (SCS).

China has long claimed the entirety of the SCS as their own territorial water. The SCS has become an extremely contested region of the world with several nations, Vietnam and the Philippines, vying for control of an area that is potentially full of natural resources.

In a bid to maintain a tighter grip in the area, China has fortified several spits of land in the Spratly Island chain. This poses a severe threat to freedom of the sea; especially as international maritime law limits a country’s territorial claims to 12 nautical miles from land. China believes that claiming the Spratly’s extends the amount of territory they can claim.

To combat China’s aggressiveness, the U.S. Navy will occasionally conduct “freedom of navigation operations” near disputed island chains. As the U.S. 7th Fleet stated:

 Unlawful and sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea pose a serious threat to the freedom of the seas, including the freedoms of navigation and overflight and the right of innocent passage of all ships.

This freedom of navigation operation upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea recognized in international law by challenging the restrictions on innocent passage imposed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan.

China has reacted to these operations in an ever-increasing manner. There have been instances of a Chinese maritime patrol ship ramming and sinking a Vietnamese fishing boat and poor maritime conduct of Chinese warships operating near U.S. Navy ships.

Now China is bragging that the “expelled” a Navy destroyer from the SCS area. As Adela Suliman reported:

China’s Southern Theater army command ‘organized sea and air forces to track, monitor, verify, and identify the U.S. ships throughout the journey, and warned and expelled them,’ said Chinese military spokesperson Li Huamin.

‘The provocative actions of the United States seriously violated relevant international law norms, seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security interests, artificially increased regional security risks, and were prone to cause unexpected incidents.’

The U.S. Navy regularly conducts these operations in a safe and nonprovocative way. China is violating international law by artificially trying to extend their territory. With its aggressive maneuvering around the world, and its recent mishandling of the coronavirus situation within their borders, President Trump is right to challenge the Chinese government.

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