China’s Defense Ministry has called for the end of US military operations in the South China Sea, citing the risks the US presence in the region creates.
Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Tan Kefei pointed to the recent accident a US nuclear-powered submarine had in the South China Sea. The US said the submarine hit an “object” on October 2nd in the disputed waters, causing some damage and injury to the crew, but disclosed no further details.
“This irresponsible and covert approach lacks transparency, and can easily lead to misunderstanding and misjudgment. China and the neighboring countries in the South China Sea have to question the truth of the incident and the intentions of the United States,” Tan said Tuesday, according to The South China Morning Post.
Since the beginning of 2020, the US has drastically increased its military activity in the South China Sea. In April, China’s Defense Ministry said since President Biden came into office, US operations in waters claimed by China had increased by more than 20 percent for US warships and 40 percent for military aircraft.
During the Obama administration, the US started challenging Beijing by sailing warships near Chinese-claimed islands in the South China Sea. The US calls these provocations “Freedom of Navigation Operations.”
“Under the banner of ‘freedom of navigation and overflight,’ the US military frequently dispatched advanced weapon platforms such as aircraft carriers, strategic bombers, and nuclear submarines to show off force and stir up trouble in the South China Sea, seriously threatening regional national security and exacerbating regional tensions. This is also the source of this collision,” Tan said.
“The United States should stop approaching reconnaissance in the sea and airspace adjacent to China’s South China Sea and reefs and its military deployment against China, and stop conducting so-called freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea,” he added.
The US shows no sign of slowing down its operations in the South China Sea and other sensitive waters near China and has enlisted other Western countries to join in on the provocations. Last week, the US and Canada both sailed warships through the Taiwan Strait.
The uptick in US military activity increases the risk of an accident between the US and Chinese militaries, something that has happened before. In 2001, a US spy plane collided with a Chinese military aircraft 59 nautical miles off the coast of Hainan Island. With US-China relations so low, if a similar incident were to happen today, it could potentially turn into a full-blown war.