US Ships Sail Dangerously Close To Chinese Ships In Disputed Waters

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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