South China Sea operations not meant to be provocative: US

This photo taken on May 14, 2019, US coastguard ship Bertholf sails along the South China Sea, off Subic bay prior to a joint search and rescue with their Philippine counterpart, as cargo ships pass by. Two Philippine coastguard ships, BRP Batangas and Kalanggaman and US coastguard cutter Bertholf participated in the exercise, as two Chinese coastguard ships monitor from a distance. AFP / Ted Aljibe. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

MANILA, May 17, 2019, PhilStar. As the US Navy vows to maintain its presence in the South China Sea, its chief clarified that naval operations in the region are not meant to provoke any country, reported the Philippine Star.

China has been protesting US freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, the latest of which was when two US warships sailed near Gaven and Chigue reefs in the Spratly Islands last week.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed “strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition” to the operation, claiming that the US ships entered without permission.

“The relevant actions of the US warships violated China’s sovereignty and undermined peace, security and good order in the relevant sea areas,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said.

Adm. John Richardson, US Navy chief, clarified that these operations are “just normal” types of operations for them.

“Certainly not meant to be provocative in any sense. Just a normal advocacy for international law,” Richardson said in a telephone briefing Thursday.

Richardson stressed that the US Navy’s freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

These operations signify Washington’s advocacy for a rules-based order brought together by the UNCLOS, the admiral added.

“The operations, we do a dozen or so of these throughout the world including contesting the excessive maritime claims of even our allies and partners,” Richardson said.

As they have done so in the past 70 years, the US will continue to maintain its presence in the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.

“Our operations there have really not fluctuated much over those seven decades, including in recent times. And so we’ll consistently be present. We have a tremendous amount of national interest,” the US Navy chief said.

As for China’s expansion in the region, Richardson said Washington hopes Beijing would would abide by the rules-based order in their activities in the disputed waterway.

“We shouldn’t hesitate or be concerned about competition. Again, it’s a natural thing. But by abiding by the rules-based order, by being transparent in our activities and actions, whether it’s in the South China Sea, the Taiwan Straits, or around the world, this once again engenders consistency with those rules, engenders trust and confidence with other parts of the international system, and certainly minimizes the risk and vulnerability of some kind of a miscalculation which would be a setback for everybody involved,” Richardson said.

Earlier this week, the US Navy chief also said he did not want maritime tensions with China to boil over.

Speaking at the sidelines of a security forum in Singapore, Richardson said the US will maintain communications with China to avoid any untoward incident.

Patricia Lourdes Viray

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