US Ships Sail Dangerously Close To Chinese Ships In Disputed Waters

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The US has intensified its freedom of
navigation operations in the disputed South China Sea.

US Navy officials have already
informed Washington about the counter measures to be implemented to hinder
China’s expansion plans in the world’s busiest trade route, also claimed by
Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

This year, the US conducted two
freedom of navigation operations in the disputed waters.

In January, the USS McCampbell sailed
near the Paracel Islands and on February 11, the USS Spruance and the USS
Preble sailed near Mischief Reef in the Spratlys. 

Both operations triggered
condemnation from Beijing.

Since 2015, the US Navy has conducted
15 freedom of navigation operations in the area to challenge Beijing’s claim on
the islands. 

Washington urged allies to do the
same and in response, British warship patrolled near the disputed area in
September.

As US steps up patrols in disputed
waters, a Chinese analyst call for tougher deterrence to protect Chinese
personnel, structures on the island and reefs.

One such voice came from Wu Shicun,
head of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies; a group that is
affiliated with the government:

“Tension in the South China Sea will
rise in the coming year so we must deploy some defensive facilities that are
able to overawe American warships entering nearby waters.

“The Americans would have to think
twice before going too far, that we might take counteraction that could
threaten their vessels.”

Wu said the US would step up what it
called freedom of navigation operations in the area with more frequent and
wider-ranging maneuvers this year.

“The Americans feel that they alone
are not enough. They might also bring in allies such as Britain, Australia or
Japan for exercises, or even create a regular joint action regime.”

While in Manila in February, US
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo affirmed US’ commitment to ensure that South
China Sea will remain open to all kinds of navigation.

Last month, Admiral Philip
Davidson, head of US Indo-Pacific Command, announced that the US would increase
efforts to counter Beijing’s growing military activities in the region which he
called “hazards”.  

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