Beijing has accused the US of entering the waters surrounding islands that Vietnam and Taiwan have also claimed without permission.
China has been outraged after the United States Navy sent warships through waters off the South China Sea near the Paracel Islands on what it called “aesthetic” maritime rights and freedoms, but China said it was illegal.
The Chinese Army’s Southern Theater Command said on Thursday that USS Curtis Wilbur entered the water without permission, and that his ships and planes were following a US ship.
Spokesman Tian Junli said the PLA had “expelled” the USS Curtis Wilbur, calling the US a “real perpetrator”, CGTN official said.
China occupies almost the entire South China Sea under their line called the nine dash which has been rejected without reason by an international court in The Hague. Taiwan, as well as the countries of Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia also take all or part of the ocean.
In a statement, US 7 Army said U.S.S Curtis Wilbur, an Arleigh Burke weapons destroyer, passed through the South China Sea “near” the Paracel Islands on May 20 on a mission to protect the rights, freedoms, and legitimate use of the sea legally valid under international law.
“Unauthorized and illegal maritime content in the South China Sea poses a serious threat to maritime rights, including the right to travel and flight, free trade and unrestricted trade and the right to economic opportunities in the South China Sea,” the statement said.
South China has been at the forefront of straining relations between the US and China, with Washington rejecting Beijing’s proposal on the water route, pushing for the construction of artificial islands and adding stone islands to establishing military bases.
China, Taiwan, and Vietnam are all said to be rulers of the Paracel Islands, Xisha in China and Hoang Sa in Vietnam. The archipelago is located about 400 kilometers (250 miles) east of Vietnam and 350 kilometers (220 miles) south of China.
The U.S. Marine Corps said all three would need a permit or notice in advance for a warship or a cruise ship to cross “innocent” across the seas. Under the Constitutional Law Act of 1982, international ships – including their warships – have the right to pass innocent by sea, it said, without having to request information from those seeking it.
The US has expanded so-called “maritime rights” in recent years, not only in the South China Sea but also in the Taiwan Strait where USS Curtis Wilbur walked Tuesday. China said the operation put “peace and quiet” at risk.
“The United States upholds travel rights as a matter of principle,” the US Navy said, emphasizing that its activities are carried out in accordance with international law. It first sent troops – USS John S McCain – near Paracels in February.
“As long as other countries continue to articulate maritime violations of international law as enshrined in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention and seek to restrict the fundamental freedoms and freedoms in the United States, the United States will continue to uphold freedom and liberty.”