On April 10, the US Navy dispatched a warship close to a disputed island in the South China Sea, where Beijing has erected military structures to reinforce its claims in the region.
The US Navy destroyer’s operation occurred while the Chinese military exhibited its power for the third consecutive day around Taiwan.
This was in response to a short visit by Taiwan’s President to the United States. The US Navy’s 7th Fleet issued a statement saying that the USS Milius, a guided-missile destroyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, referred to as the Nansha Islands in China.
Mischief Reef, situated within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines, is also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. However, Beijing has fortified the island and constructed military installations to establish territorial control over the region.
The US Navy said, “Features like Mischief Reef submerged at high tide in their naturally formed state are not entitled to a territorial sea. The land reclamation efforts, installations, and structures built on Mischief Reef do not change this characterization under international law.”
The People’s Liberation Army of China said the US ship had “illegally” approached waters near the reef without Chinese permission and that its personnel had observed and warned it.
China’s Southern Theater Command said that the South China Sea islands and the surrounding maritime region are completely under China’s control.
Beijing claims sovereignty over more than 80% of the South China Sea. The other claimants are the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Brunei.
The Chinese military is currently carrying out three-day military drills around Taiwan.
The exercises involved ships and aircraft operating close to the island nation. They were launched in response to Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other lawmakers.
The 7th Fleet statement declared that the US destroyer’s freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) upheld other countries’ rights to send ships into the area. American warships in the South China Sea routinely carry out these FONOPs.
US Challenges China By Deploying Destroyer
In an interview with Fox News, Rebekah Koffler, a Russian-born US intelligence expert, said that the US must demonstrate to China that it can protect Taiwan.
The analyst acknowledged that even though the US has a military doctrine that implies it should be prepared to fight a two-front war at all times, in reality, the US is currently stretched thin and cannot fulfill this obligation due to the depletion of its ammunition caused by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
She also explained that the character of warfare had evolved significantly since World War II, with satellites now playing an essential role in modern conflicts by enabling precision attacks.
The analyst pointed out that while the US is not currently engaged in a direct military conflict, it significantly supports Ukraine in every area, including real-time satellite intelligence.
The analyst also addressed the recent leak of highly classified Pentagon documents online, emphasizing the danger of such a breach and characterizing it as a major counterintelligence failure. She added that such a situation could potentially lead to the failure of Ukraine’s counter-offensive plans.
Meanwhile, the Chinese military conducted aerial and naval blockade operations near Taiwan on April 10, the final day of the planned exercises. A Chinese aircraft carrier participated in combat patrols during these drills.
Taipei reported another wave of warplanes flying close to the island. According to Chinese state television, the military drills carried out around Taiwan involved several types of aircraft, including nuclear-capable H-6 bombers armed with live missiles.
Furthermore, Japan’s defense ministry reported on Monday that the Shandong, a Chinese aircraft carrier, conducted air operations near Japan’s Okinawa islands.
The carrier was accompanied by three other warships and a support vessel. Jet fighters and helicopters were observed taking off and landing on the carrier 120 times between April 7 to April 9.
Japan has closely monitored China’s military exercises around Taiwan “with great interest.” Japan has voiced apprehension about China’s military operations in the area, mainly due to the closeness of the southern Japanese islands to Taiwan.