China recently accused the USS Gabrielle Giffords, a U.S. naval ship, of “illegally intruding” into waters near the Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, a region marked by territorial disputes.
The People’s Liberation Army Southern Theater of China stated on Monday that their naval force was mobilized to track the American warship, alleging a violation of China’s sovereign waters.
“The U.S. deliberately disrupted the situation in the South China Sea, seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security, seriously undermined regional peace and stability, and seriously violated international law and basic norms governing international relations, fully demonstrating that the U.S. is the biggest threat to peace and stability in the South China Sea,” the Chinese military’s Southern Theater Command said.
In response, the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet denied these allegations, asserting that the USS Gabrielle Giffords was “conducting routine operations in international waters … consistent with international law.” This littoral combat ship, designed for operations in coastal areas, was part of ongoing activities in the region.
The South China Sea has been a hotspot for confrontations between Chinese and Philippine naval and coast guard ships in recent months. Dwarfed by China’s military capabilities, the Philippines has sought American assistance in these territorial disputes. China also accused the U.S. of interference in waters far from its shores and exacerbating regional tensions.
The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet, based in Japan, highlighted its commitment to maintaining a “free and open Indo-Pacific region where all nations, large and small, are secure in their sovereignty, can resolve disputes without coercion, and have the freedom to navigate and fly consistent with international laws, rules and norms.”
China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea extend to nearly all the reefs and outcroppings, leading to conflicts with Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei, who also assert ownership. These overlapping claims contribute to the region’s complexity. The U.S., with its long history of patrolling the South China Sea, has been involved in ensuring regional peace and navigational freedom, challenging China’s growing military presence and regional ambitions.
The USS Gabrielle Giffords, named after former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was commissioned on June 10, 2017, in Galveston, Texas. This ship holds the distinction of being the third Navy ship named after a living woman.
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