The US guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold on Wednesday entered Chinese waters off the disputed Xisha Islands, also known as the Paracel Islands, in the South China Sea without Beijing’s permission, thus once again undermining peace and stability in the region, a spokesman for Chinese military said.
“On July 13, the US guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold trespassed into China’s territorial waters off Xisha Islands without the Chinese government’s permission,” Chinese Air Force Senior Colonel Tian Junli, spokesman for the Southern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army, said in a statement.
The actions of the US military have seriously violated China’s national sovereignty and security, undermined peace and stability in the South China Sea and violated international law, the spokesman added.
According to Tian, the US move has once again proven Washington’s intention to militarize the South China Sea.
“Facts have fully proven that the US is nothing but a ‘trouble-maker’ and the ‘biggest destroyer’ of the peace and stability in the South China Sea,” the statement read.
Beijing has long been disputing the ownership of several hydrocarbon-rich islands in the South China Sea with several Asia-Pacific countries. The territories include the Xisha archipelago, the Spratly Islands, and the island of Huangyan, also known as the Scarborough Shoal. Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines have been claiming ownership of the territories.
The situation in the sea region is often complicated by the passage of US warships, which, according to Beijing, violate international law and undermine China’s sovereignty and security. Washington has said that the US forces will continue to operate wherever international law is allowed, including the South China Sea.
Australia Wary Of China
Australia will strengthen its national security and military footprint in thef Indo-Pacific to keep potential competitors at bay, Defense Minister Richard Marles has announced.
Marles delivered a keynote speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington where he arrived on Monday for his first visit to the United States since assuming office.
“For the first time in decades we are thinking hard about the security of our strategic geography, the viability of our trade and supply routes, and above all the preservation of an inclusive regional order founded on rules agreed by all, not the coercive capabilities of a few,” he said.
Australia’s new Labor government has committed to ensuring funding for this pathway, Marles said. The defense ministry has commissioned a force posture review for delivery in early 2023 that will determine how best to structure defense assets and personnel and cooperate with the US.
“I want to underline, first and foremost, that Australia will do its share. This government is resolved that Australia will take greater responsibility for its own security,” he promised.
He did not specify whom Australia saw as its potential adversaries but the speech made several thinly-veiled references to China. Beijing struck a military pact with the Solomon Islands in April, less than 1,200 miles off Australia’s east coast.
The minister said that Australia would invest in increasing the range and lethality of its armed forces to “hold potential adversary forces and infrastructure at risk further from Australia,” including by developing longer-range strike weapons, cyber capabilities and area denial systems.
US-Thailand Boost Ties
Earlier, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai signed two documents to further advance the strategic alliance and partnership between the countries.
Blinken traveled to Thailand, one of the most staunch US allies in Asia, a day after his meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Indonesia. It is Blinken’s first official visit to Thailand, which coincided with the 190th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the states.
“Today we just finish off with the signing of a communiqué, the Thai-U.S. Communiqué on Strategic Alliance and Partnership, which is a testament to our close alliance and longstanding ties of friendship, which set forth our strategy goals based on shared values and common interests,” Pramudwinai told the press after his meeting with Blinken.
The previous communique was signed 60 years ago by their predecessors, Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Foreign Minister Thanat Khoman, in Washington.
The second document, a memorandum of understanding, aims to promote supply chain cooperation in critical industry and technological innovation.
Blinken, in turn, noted that he and Pramudwinai had an “extremely productive dialogue,” which focused on bilateral relations between Washington and Bangkok, joint work with ASEAN and other issues.
The US official extolled Thailand as an important partner in the region, which shares “the goal of a free, open, interconnected, prosperous, resilient, and secure Indo-Pacific.” He particularly stressed the importance of cooperation in the economy, security and climate agenda.
Thailand is considered a critical non-NATO ally of the US in the region. The military and strategic partnership between the two countries reached its peak during the US Indochina War (1965 — 1975) when Thailand served as the rear of the US troops fighting in Vietnam, with Thai soldiers fighting on the US side.
In recent decades, relations between the two countries have evolved with the continued presence of China’s growing influence in the Southeast Asian region, with which Thailand also maintains close cooperation, especially in the field of trade and economy.
Thailand keeps up friendly relations with Russia. In 2022, the countries will celebrate the 125th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.