It was reported on July 13th that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) claimed it had “expelled” a U.S. warship near the Paracel Islands. The U.S. Navy refuted the claim. 7th. Fleet spokesman Lieutenant Nicholas Lingo said that the U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold approached the disputed Paracels Island on Wednesday. It conducted a Freedom of Navigation Operation, known as a FONOP, in accordance with international law and within international waters and left the area after its mission.
According to a statement released by the 7th Fleet, the operation reflects our commitment to uphold freedom of navigation and lawful use of the sea as a principle. The United States is defending every nation’s right to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, as USS Benfold did here. The statement pointed out that the PLA Southern Theater Command’s claim is the latest in a long string of actions to misrepresent lawful U.S. maritime operations. The PLA’s behavior starkly contrasts with the United States’ compliance with international law and its vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
It was reported on Monday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted that a 2016 ruling by a Netherlands arbitration tribunal that rejected Communist China’s claim to own most of the South China Sea is binding on both Communist China and the Philippines. The tribunal ruling came after an appeal by the Philippine government, which Beijing rejected but revised some of its expansive claims after the 2016 ruling. However, Mr. Blinken said the State Department had recently produced a study examining China’s post-ruling territorial claims and rejected them as illegal. He said that this study concluded that these re-articulated maritime claims remain plainly inconsistent with international law.
Blinken also reiterated former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s 2020 statement that any armed attack on the Philippines Armed Forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the South China Sea would trigger the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty. In other words, if the CCP ignores the tribunal’s ruling, there is a risk of conflict with the U.S.