NEWS AND ANALYSIS:
The US Navy clashed with the People’s Liberation Army on Wednesday after a US warship passed near a disputed reef in the South China Sea.
The USS Benfold guided-missile destroyer cruised within 12 miles of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands and conducted operations near the reef where China has built a military base.
“The USS Benfold has demonstrated that Mischief Reef, a low-tide shoal in its natural state, is not entitled to a territorial sea under international law,” the Navy Lieutenant said. Marc Langford, spokesman for the 7th Fleet.
China’s Defense Ministry said on its website that Benfold’s trip violated China’s sovereignty.
“The PRC’s statement about this mission is false,” Lt. Langford later said, adding that the destroyer was operating legally under international law and continuing to operate in international waters.
“The operation reflects our commitment to upholding freedom of navigation and lawful uses of the sea as a principle,” he said. “The United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law permits, as the USS Benfold did here. Nothing [China] says otherwise will dissuade us.
The Benfold’s mission was the first operation after China implemented a new maritime law. The China Maritime Security Administration announced earlier this year that from September 1, certain foreign vessels in waters claimed by China must provide advance notice to Beijing, including vessels transiting with radioactive materials and bulk carriers of oil, chemicals, liquefied natural gas and other materials. . The regulations authorize penalties and fines for non-compliance and allow Chinese vessels to order ships to leave the waterways.
Asked about maritime law, the Pentagon spokesman Soft Jeans said the US government strongly insists that the laws of coastal states must not interfere with the rights of navigation and overflight defined in international law.
“Illegal and extensive maritime claims, including in the South China Sea, pose a serious threat to the freedom of the seas, including the freedoms of navigation and overflight, free trade and unimpeded lawful commerce, as well as the rights and interests of the South China Sea and other littoral nations,” Supple said.
Lt. Langford said the Benfold was hailed on the radio by the PLA while in transit and did not seek clearance for its Mischief Reef operations. The spokesperson added that the statement from the PLA Navy “is the latest in a long series of [Chinese] actions to distort lawful US maritime operations and assert its excessive and illegitimate maritime claims at the expense of its Southeast Asian neighbors in the South China Sea.
China’s behavior “stands in contrast to the United States’ adherence to international law and our vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region”, he said. “All nations, large and small, should be secure in their sovereignty, free from coercion and able to pursue economic growth in accordance with accepted international rules and standards. »
The Benfold engaged in unspecified “normal” operations within 12 miles of the reef, the spokesman said.
Mischief Reef is one of three disputed islands in the South China Sea where Beijing has built bases and deployed missiles and other military equipment, including runways capable of handling all types of military aircraft.
Lt. Langford said China’s land reclamation efforts, facilities and structures on Mischief Reef do not change its status under international law as a low-lying reef that does not support any claims of sovereignty. national.
In the PLA statement, Senior Col. Tian Junli, a spokesman for Southern Theater Command, said the Benfold had “penetrated” near Mischief Reef, called Meiji Reef by the Chinese. Colonel Tian said the warship had been “warned” by the PLA.
“This is another ironclad proof of [U.S.] shipping hegemony and the militarization of the South China Sea,” he said. “Facts have repeatedly proven that the United States is a ‘creator of security risks in the South China Sea’ and the ‘greatest destroyer’ of peace and stability in this region.”
Kerry again stiffened by China on the climate
Former Secretary of State John Kerry, the Biden administration’s point man on climate change, made a second visit to China last week and came away empty-handed in his efforts to persuade Beijing to cut carbon emissions.
Worse still, senior Chinese leaders used their meetings with Mr. Kerry, who visited the city of Tianjin, to criticize the United States and let him know that there would be no cooperation on the climate change due to intransigent US policies toward China.
Yang Jiechi, a senior Communist Party official and President Xi Jinping, told Mr. Kerry in a September 2 video call that the United States had interfered in China’s internal affairs and harmed Beijing’s interests. He blamed Washington for causing problems in US-China relations.
A day earlier, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi threw cold water on Mr. Kerry’s attempts to separate climate issues from other bilateral issues such as the Chinese genocide in Xinjiang, the crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong, cyberattacks and Chinese territorial encroachment in the international waters.
Mr. Wang outright rejected Mr. Kerry’s call for China to separate the climate from these issues, telling the climate czar that a precondition for cooperation would be that the United States “stop containing and suppressing China all over the world”.
The Foreign Secretary dismissed Mr Kerry’s efforts to isolate climate change as “an oasis” in the relationship. “If the oasis is completely surrounded by deserts, then sooner or later the ‘oasis’ will be desertified,” Wang said.
Mr. Kerry sought to spin the Chinese insults. He told reporters he had promised to convey Chinese leaders’ messages to US officials and called his talks “very constructive and detailed”.
However, the rejection of cooperation by Mr. Yang and Mr. Wang was in stark contrast to the joint statement issued in Shanghai during Mr. Kerry’s visit in April. The statement said the two nations were committed “to cooperating with each other and with other countries to address the climate crisis, which must be addressed with the seriousness and urgency it demands.”
It was the latest bait and switch from a Chinese government that critics say has broken many promises made to the United States for years, such as cutting coal-fired power plants and limiting emissions. of greenhouse gases.
“What China is saying is that they have no intention of working with the United States on climate issues if they don’t get what they want,” June Teufel Dreyer, a political science professor at the University of Miami, told Voice of America.
Left-wing group opposes arms sales to Taiwan
Anti-war group CodePink is launching a lobbying campaign to kill a $750 million arms sale to Taiwan proposed by the Biden administration.
“Not only is this sale a direct violation of China’s sovereignty and prior agreements between the United States and China, but it will also exacerbate climate change through military pollution and increase the risk of kinetic and nuclear war between the United States. nations,” CodePink said on its website.
The lobbying campaign, co-sponsored with the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security, is calling for letters urging members of Congress to block the Taiwan deal. The weapons offered for sale include howitzers, armored vehicles equipped with machine guns and bomb kits for precision-guided munitions.
The group claims the arms sale would violate 1980s communiqués with China, a claim frequently made about Beijing’s US arms sales.
“The Chinese Foreign Ministry has called the proposed arms sale a violation of China’s sovereignty that sends the wrong signals to the separatist forces of ‘Taiwan independence’, seriously damages China-US relations and threatens peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” the letter to Congress states. “In addition, sending more weapons to Taiwan will surely upset the Chinese leadership, making much-needed cooperation on climate change, pandemic control, nuclear non-proliferation and other issues increasingly difficult. of common interest.”
US sales of defensive arms to Taiwan are codified by law, specifically the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979. The law outlines US government efforts to strengthen Taiwan’s defenses to deter and prevent military action against the island state, which Beijing says is a breakaway province.
CodePink spokeswoman Madison Tang said the group, in its “China is not our enemy” campaign, “referenced the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s claim that the sale of weapons offered by the United States to Taiwan is a violation of China’s sovereignty…”.
Arms sales to Taiwan violate the three joint statements outlining US-China relations and are bilateral and mutually agreed upon “unlike the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which is not bilaterally approved by China,” she said in an email.
• Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter @BillGertz.