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The US military will continue to operate “wherever” international law allows in the South China Sea, a US admiral has said.

“International seas and airspace belong to everyone and are not the dominion of any single nation,” US Admiral Harry Harris said, according to prepared remarks for a speech at the Stanford Center at Peking University.

“Our military will continue to fly, sail, and operate whenever and wherever international law allows. The South China Sea is not and will not be an exception,” he added.

Harris is the commander of the US Pacific Command and his public declaration in the Chinese capital is a mark of US resolve over the strategically vital waterway, where Beijing has built up rocks and reefs into artificial islands with facilities for military use.

This comes after a US Navy destroyer sailed close to artificial islands built by China in the disputed waters of the South China Sea in defiance of China. Destroyer USS Lassen breached the 12-nautical mile zone China claims around its artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago.

USS Lassen is an Arleigh Burke class destroyer. The Arleigh Burke class are built around the Aegis Combat System.

The freedom of navigation operation represents a serious challenge to China’s territorial claims. Freedom of navigation is a principle of international law that ships flying the flag of any sovereign state shall not suffer interference from other states. This right is also codified in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. However, not all UN member states have ratified the convention; notably, the United States has signed, but not ratified the convention.

China had responded to the US for ignoring repeated warnings and allowing one of its destroyers to sail close to the artificial islands.

A statement posted on China’s Foreign Ministry website says:

“These actions of the US warship are a threat to the sovereignty and security of China, and safety of people living on the islands; they damage peace and stability in the region. In this regard, the Chinese side expresses extreme dissatisfaction and strongly protests.”

Under international law, a state’s territorial waters extend 12 nautical miles from its shore. However, the US and others argue that this rule cannot apply to artificial islands.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, also claim parts of the sea. Taiwan is a sixth claimant.

14 COMMENTS

    • Why would the Chinese risk losing such a massive market for its goods? Especially when their economy is slowing down at an alarming rate. And would the massive instability such an actions would cause on the international markets prove to the detriment of China in the long term?

    • If my bank tells me its forcing me to pay back my mortgage tomorrow then they’ll get nothing as I haven’t got the money to pay! Is China that stupid? I don’t think so; I see them as quite clever people.

    • There is no such thing as China calling in US debt. All they can do is sell it, either to the US, in which case it gets cancelled and swapped for cash, or to some third party, in which case the US doesn’t care at all.

  1. so they should. artificial islands do not count as coast line territory… especially out in international waters. the ‘oldest civilization’s’ bullying should be rebuked at every turn.

  2. Its a good time for the USA to build an artificial island in the Black sea and maybe one in the East China sea! The possibilities are endless.

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