On Thursday, the US sailed a warship near the Chinese-controlled Paracel Islands in the South China Sea amid heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing in the region.
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said it drove away the guided-missile destroyer USS Milius after it “illegally” sailed near the disputed islands. The US Navy’s Seventh Fleet disputed China’s claims and said the Milinus “was not expelled.”
The US doesn’t recognize most of China’s claims to the South China Sea and began challenging them during the Obama administration by sending warships near Chinese-controlled islands, maneuvers dubbed “Freedom of Navigation Operations.”
China and several of its Southeast Asian neighbors have overlapping claims to the South China Sea. The Paracel Islands are claimed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
The dispute has become a major source of tensions between the US and China as Washington has become involved and has increased its military activity in the South China Sea.
The US also backs the Philippines’ claims against China and has been deepening military cooperation with Manila. The US and the Philippines signed a deal last month that will give the US military access to four more bases in the Philippines, including one in Palawan, a Philippine province facing the South China Sea.
China is strongly against the US military expansion in the Philippines and has made that clear to Manila. Beijing is not happy that some of the new bases will be in northern areas of the Philippines, facing Taiwan.