Sunday, 10 May 2020 2:18 AM [ Last Update: Sunday, 10 May 2020 2:19 AM ]
The Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Montgomery (LCS 8) conducts routine operations near Panamanian flagged drillship, West Capella, May 7, 2020. (File photo)
The US Navy has warned China to stop “bullying” foreign ships in the South China Sea as two American warships sailed into the midst of a dispute in the contested waterway near Chinese territorial waters.
Commander of the US Pacific Fleet Adm. John Aquilino claimed in a statement that the United States is “committed to a rules-based order in the South China Sea and we will continue to champion freedom of the seas and the rule of law,” US-based Business Insider news outlet reported Saturday.
“The Chinese Communist Party must end its pattern of bullying Southeast Asians out of offshore oil, gas, and fisheries,” the US commander further proclaimed in his statement on Thursday. “Millions of people in the region depend on those resources for their livelihood.”
According to the report, the Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Montgomery and the Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship USNS Cesar Chavez conducted “presence operations” near Malaysia-contracted drillship, the West Capella, in a bid to support the vessel allegedly “hassled” by Chinese ships in recent months.
The West Capella, a ship contracted by Malaysia’s state oil company Petronas, has been conducting exploratory drilling in the South China Sea.
Malaysia, however, has expressed hopes that the US-alleged standoff will be resolved peacefully, as Beijing has denied the existence of any dispute.
The development came a week after the US military deployed four B-1B heavy bombers and hundreds of troops to its western pacific territory of Guam to carry out “deterrence missions” aimed at Beijing after days of provocative maneuvers near contested territory in the South China Sea.US deploys 4 B-1 bombers, 200 troops to Guam for China ‘deterrence’The US military sends four B-1B bombers and 200 troops to Guam to carry out “deterrence missions” against Beijing in the South China Sea.
The warplanes and airmen arrived at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam Island on May 2, according to a statement by the US Strategic Command that further noted that three of the B-1B Lancers flew directly to the base, while another diverted to waters near Japan to train with the US Navy.
The growing American military presence in the region follows escalating rhetoric from US President Donald Trump against Beijing, increasingly blaming the country for the ongoing coronavirus pandemic without pointing to any evidence to back his claims.
According to a Reuters report, the US State Department criticized China’s behavior in April claiming that Beijing “should cease its bullying behavior and refrain from engaging in this type of provocative and destabilizing activity.”
This is while US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said last week that “we continue to see aggressive behavior by the PLA in the South China Sea.” He further alleged that Chinese actions include “threatening a Philippine navy ship,” “sinking a Vietnamese fishing boat,” and “intimidating other nations from engaging in offshore oil development.”
Meanwhile, the Chinese military warned a US warship last month to leave after it illegally entered the disputed waters in the South China Sea. Chinese military warns US warship to leave South China SeaThe Chinese military has warned a US warship to leave after it illegally entered the disputed waters in the South China Sea.
Colonel Li Huamin, a spokesman for the Southern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army, said then that the warship “entered the territorial waters off the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea without China’s permission.”
“The US move has severely violated the relevant international law and was a serious infringement of China’s sovereignty,” Li said, calling on US to stop military operations that are not conducive to regional security and peace and stability.