The United States rejected Chinese claims that a US warship was forced out of the waters it entered illegally into the disputed South China Sea on Thursday.
China’s military said the USS Milius, a guided-missile destroyer, had «illegally invaded Chinese territorial waters of Xisha without Chinese government approval.»
Chinese forces monitored, warned the vessel and drove it away, Tian Junli, a spokesman for the South China Theater Command, said in a statement early Thursday.
He added that the United States was «threatening the peace and stability of the South China Sea region» and that Beijing’s forces would «always maintain a high state of readiness and take all necessary measures to resolutely uphold national sovereignty and security.» and peace and stability» in the area.
But the US military quickly disputed the Chinese statement.
“The USS Milius is conducting routine operations in the South China Sea and was not ejected. The United States will continue to fly, sail and operate where international law allows,” the US Navy’s 7th Fleet said in a statement, according to Reuters.
The Xisha Islands, also known as the Paracel Islands and the Hoang Sa Archipelago in Vietnam, are a disputed archipelago of coral reefs and islands in southern China.
In its daily press briefing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry stressed China’s position that a US ship had trespassed into its waters and called on the US to «stop such provocations.»
«China will take all necessary measures to safeguard its sovereignty and security and uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea,» spokesman Wang Wenbin said.
Geopolitical tensions have been high in the strategically important waterway for years, with frequent flashpoints between the world’s two largest economies.
In July 2021, China accused another US warship, the USS Benfold, of entering what it considers its territorial waters near the Paracel Islands.
NBC News was aboard a US patrol plane last month when a Chinese fighter jet flew 500 feet away for more than an hour.
China, which has the world’s largest navy, claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea despite a landmark 2016 ruling by an international court that its claims have no legal basis. His position has antagonized several countries in the region with which he has territorial disputes.
The United States and many of China’s neighbors accuse Beijing of using «grey area» tactics that are not legal acts of war to intimidate other countries and exert greater control over the area. In response, the US regularly conducts «freedom of navigation» and other operations in international airspace and waters.
The USS Milius is named for Captain Paul L. Milius, an American aviator whose plane is presumed destroyed over Laos during the Vietnam War in 1968.
The ship is capable of simultaneously conducting anti-air, anti-submarine, surface and strike warfare, according to the US Navy website.
jennifer jett, Eric Baculinao and Jace Zhang contributed.