Chinese military says 'warned' US warship to leave South China Sea

By AFP   March 22, 2023 | 11:16 pm PT
Chinese military says 'warned' US warship to leave South China Sea
The USS Milius DDG69, a multi-mission-capable guided missile destroyer ship, is shown docked at Manila’s south harbor on August 18, 2012. Photo by AFP
The Chinese military said it warned a U.S. warship to "leave" waters in the disputed South China Sea on Thursday, claims swiftly denied as "false" by American forces.

China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea -- a strategic waterway through which trillions of dollars in trade pass annually -- despite an international court ruling that the assertion has no legal basis.

The Southern Theater Command of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) said the USS Milius, a guided missile destroyer, on Thursday entered waters around the Paracel Islands.

The PLA "organized sea and air forces to track and monitor (the ship) in accordance with the law" and "warned it to leave," spokesman Tian Junli said.

The vessel "made an illegal incursion into Chinese territorial waters... without permission from the Chinese government, harming peace and stability" in the region, he said.

The U.S. military swiftly denied the claims, telling AFP that "the PRC's statement is false," using the acronym for the People's Republic of China.

The vessel "is conducting routine operations in the South China Sea and was not expelled," said a spokesperson for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

"The United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows," the spokesperson said.

While asserting their claims in the South China Sea, Chinese authorities in recent years have built artificial islands, including some with military facilities and runways.

Regional nations have also accused Chinese vessels of harassing their fishing boats.

Vietnam, which calls the South China Sea the East Sea, has repeatedly affirmed that it has full legal basis and historical evidence to assert its sovereignty over the Spratly and Paracel Islands in accordance with international law.

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