Bill Hayton on economic impact of South China Sea tensions
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Earlier this month, the US deployed the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group (VINCSG) to the highly contested South China Sea for the first time during the group’s 2021 deployment. The strike group is conducting maritime security operations, including flight operations and maritime strike exercises.
Rear Adm. Dan Martin, commander of the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group, said: “The freedom of all nations to navigate in international waters is important, and especially vital in the South China Sea, where nearly a third of global maritime trade transits each year.
“As we’ve transited the Pacific from San Diego to the South China Sea, we have had the privilege and pleasure to work alongside our allies, partners, and joint service teammates in training, exercises, engagements and operations – all with a common goal to ensure peace and stability throughout the region.
“It is in all of our interest that the international community plays an active role in preserving the rules-based international order.”
However, China’s state media lashed out at Washington’s deployment of the strike carrier group in the highly contested region.
Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of the Global Times, tweeted: “Hopefully when Chinese warships pass through the Caribbean Sea or show up near Hawaii and Guam one day, the US will uphold the same standard of freedom of navigation.
“That day will come soon.”
The US Navy responded Xijin’s comments by stating the navy has “upheld the standards of freedom of navigation longer than the PLA navy has existed”.
The South China Sea is a highly contested region and is claimed in parts by China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Diplomatic relations between the nations are already incredibly strained.
Over recent months, Beijing has asserted its dominance in the region and has built several military bases on some of the atolls.
Despite not having a claim to any part of the archipelago, Washington has increased its military presence in order to counter China’s dominance in the region.
The USS Benfold entered the contested waters near the Paracel Islands, which China claims as its own territory.
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The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China said the destroyer entered the region without approval.
Beijing claimed this move by the US violated its sovereignty and undermined the stability of the region.
The PLA said in a statement: “We urged the United States to immediately stop such provocative actions.”
However, the US Navy claimed the destroyer asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the region that were in line with international law.
The Navy said: “Under international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention, the ships of all states, including their warships, enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea.
“By engaging in innocent passage without giving prior notification to or asking permission from any of the claimants, the United States challenged these unlawful restrictions imposed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.”
They added: “By conducting this operation, the United States demonstrated that these waters are beyond what China can lawfully claim as its territorial sea, and that China’s claimed straight baselines around the Paracel Islands are inconsistent with international law.”
Zhao Lijian, China’s foreign ministry spokesman, said the US was harming peace and stability in the region.
He urged Washington to stop “stirring up trouble” in the highly contested region.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said freedom of the seas was an “enduring” interest of all nations.
He said: “Nowhere is the rules-based maritime order under greater threat than in the South China Sea.
“The People’s Republic of China continues to coerce and intimidate Southeast Asian coastal states, threatening freedom of navigation in this critical global throughway.”
In May, China “expelled” a US-guided missile destroyer after it “trespassed” into Beijing’s territorial waters in the South China Sea.
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