US ship sails by Spratly Islands

By Reuters   February 17, 2021 | 01:24 am PT
US ship sails by Spratly Islands
Destroyer USS Russell at sea on June 4, 2020. Photo by U.S. Navy.
A U.S. Navy warship sailed by Spratly Islands Wednesday in a freedom of navigation operation, marking the latest move by Washington to challenge Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet said destroyer USS Russell "asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the Spratly Islands, consistent with international law."

Washington has denounced what it called Beijing’s attempts to bully neighbors with competing interests. China has repeatedly denounced what it called U.S. efforts to foment unrest in the region and interfere in what it regards as its internal affairs.

The U.S. ship’s pass by the Spratly Islands follows a joint exercise by two U.S. carrier groups in South China Sea and another warship sailing near the Paracel Islands earlier this month. Those actions had suggested that the Biden administration was not about to scale back operations challenging Beijing’s claims after the ramp-up seen during the Trump administration.

China seized the Paracel Islands from South Vietnam by force in 1974, and has been illegally occupying a number of reefs in the Spratly Islands since 1988.

Vietnam has repeatedly affirmed that it has full legal basis and historical evidence to assert its sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) islands in the South China Sea in accordance with international law. The waters is known as the East Sea in Vietnam.

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