Chinese officials on Monday said that its military drove a U.S. warship out of a disputed area of the South China Sea, The Associated Press reported.
A People’s Liberation Army (PLA) spokesperson said on social media that it sent ships and planes to the area after the USS Benfold entered an area around the Paracel Islands that is claimed by Beijing.
The PLA spokesperson told the news outlet that Chinese forces warned the U.S. ship and drove them away from the Paracel Islands, which the PLA claimed are part of China's “inherent territory,” according to the AP.
“The actions of the U.S. military have seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security,” the PLA said.
In a statement, the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet called China’s claims false, stating that the USS Benfold carried out its mission “in accordance with international law and then continued on to conduct normal operations in international waters.”
“U.S. forces operate in the South China Sea on a daily basis, as they have for more than a century. They routinely operate in close coordination with like-minded allies and partners who share our commitment to uphold a free and open international order that promotes security and prosperity,” the 7th Fleet said in its statement.
“All of our operations are designed to be conducted in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows — regardless of the location of excessive maritime claims and regardless of current events.”
This comes as Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenChina asks its sworn rival, the United States, to 'guide' the Taliban GOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization Pope on Biden communion debate: Bishops shouldn't 'go condemning' MORE recently warned China about intimidating its Southeast Asian neighbors and threatening navigation through the global waterway, the AP reported.
Blinken has warned China that if it followed through on threats to target Philippine aircraft or vessels, it “would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments.”
The Biden administration on Sunday gave their full support for the 2016 tribunal ruling that rejected China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, the AP noted.