U.S. Ship sails near disputed islands

Staff Columnist

By Gordon Lubold and Jeremy Page

(World News, The Wall Street Journal, Tuesday, January 8, 2019)

(I wrote about the subject of these islands a few years ago for these pages.  Our coverage of the subject was not without notice.)

“WASHINGTON  A U.S. guided –missile destroyer patrolled near the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea on Monday, challenging  Beijing’s maritime claims there, U.S. Military  officials said.

The USS McCampbell conducted what the military calls a freedom of navigation operation in the Paracel Islands chain , sailing within 12 nautical miles  of  three islands :  Tree, Lincoln and Woody, according to a Navy official.

The ship patrol was meant to challenge excessive maritime claims by Beijing and to ‘preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law,’ according to a statement from Lt. j.g. Rachel McMarr, a spokeswoman for U.S. Pacific Fleet.  China sent a vessel to warn off the American ship and has lodged a complaint with the U.S., Chinese  Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Monday at a regular press briefing in Beijing.  Mr. Lu urged the U.S. to stop taking provocative  action in the region and avoid disrupting trade talks under way in Beijing.  ‘It is imperative for the two sides and I believe we have a responsibility to create an enabling atmosphere for these talks at this time.’ he said.

The Paracels are claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan but have been controlled by China since it seized them from Vietnamese forces in 1974.

The U.S. Navy has conducted such patrols in the South China Sea for years but tensions with Beijing  over the operations have escalated in recent years as China has sought to assert its maritime claims in one of the world’s busiest waterways.

The U.S. and its Asian allies and partners have been alarmed in particular by China’s construction of seven fortified artificial islands.

Including three with large airstrips  — in the Spratly Islands chain. China’s claims in the Spratlys overlap those of  Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia,Brunei and the Philippines  __a U.S. treaty ally.”

More and Concluding:  “Beijing has also upgraded several military outposts in the Paracels and deployed jet fighters to at least one, according to satellite images and U.S. officials.  The U.S. has respnded by stepping up its patrols in the area and encouraging allies to exercise their right to freedom of navigation.”


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