(NationalUSNews.com) — On Monday, December 4, the Chinese government said that the USS Gabrielle Giffords, a small nimble warship designed to be operated in coastal areas, illegally entered waters near the Second Thomas Shoal. The Second Thomas Shoal is a submerged reef located in the Spratly Islands, which are only 105 nautical miles west of the Philippines. It is a disputed territory and has been claimed by several nations, including China and the Philippines.
There have been numerous confrontations between the two countries’ naval and coast guard ships recently as China has been attempting to prevent the Philippines from repairing and resupplying a military outpost they created there in 1999 by grounding an old warship to use for that purpose. Concerned about the extreme power imbalance between China and themselves, the Philippines have turned to America for assistance in the contentious situation in the South China Sea.
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. went so far as to agree to an expansion of the U.S. military presence in the Philippines earlier this year. The US and the Philippines have also been conducting joint maritime and air patrols in the South China Sea, which China believes is an act of aggression on America’s part.
In an official public statement, China has accused the US of interfering in the situation in the South China Sea. They claim that the disputed territory belongs to China and is important to their fishing industry. They also accuse America of undermining their national security and sovereignty. In October, China’s defense ministry called the U.S. the world’s biggest disruptor of peace and stability in that region.
However, President Marcos has described the situation as increasingly dire. Last month, Chinese coast guard ships boxed in Philippine government vessels as they approached the reef, then blasted them with water cannons. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the armed wing of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), says that the USS Gabrielle Giffords did not have the Chinese government’s approval to operate in the Spratly Islands archipelago area. The U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, which is based in Japan, has rejected that allegation and asserts that the USS Gabrielle Giffords was just “conducting routine operations” in international waters that are entirely “consistent with international law.” Furthermore, they added that the Seventh Fleet will “fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” no matter what current events or disputes there may be.
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