China Says US Warship ‘Illegally’ Sailed Near Disputed Reef in South China Sea

The incident occurred near Second Thomas Shoal, which has been the site of frequent encounters between Philippine and Chinese vessels

The Chinese military said Monday that a US warship “illegally” entered waters near Second Thomas Shoal, a disputed reef in the South China Sea that’s been the site of frequent confrontations between Chinese and Philippine vessels.

“The United States has deliberately disrupted the South China Sea, seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security, severely undermined regional peace and stability, and seriously violated international law and basic norms governing international relations,” China’s People’s Liberation Army’s Southern Theater Command said in a statement.

“This fully illustrates that the US is the biggest threat to peace and stability in the South China Sea,” the command added.

According to The South China Morning Post, the USS Gabrielle Giffords, an Independence-class littoral combat ship, made the passage after conducting combined operations with the Philippine Navy in the South China Sea.

Red marker shows the location of Second Thomas Shoal (Google Maps)

The Philippines grounded a World War II-era warship on Second Thomas Shoal in 1999 to assert its claims and now uses it as a base of operations for the region. Chinese and Philippine vessels typically have encounters when Manila sends boats to resupply the ship.

This year, dangerous confrontations at the reef have spiked as Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has taken a more aggressive approach in pushing back on China’s claims in the South China Sea. The US has emboldened Marcos by increasing military ties with Manila and stepping up its presence in the South China Sea, including by resuming joint patrols with the Philippines.

Recent incidents have included Chinese and Philippine boats colliding and the Chinese Coast Guard firing water cannons. After each confrontation, the US always reminds China that the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty applies to attacks on Philippine vessels in the South China Sea.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.