Friday, 5 Mar 2021

South China Sea: US and China in heated clash as Beijing ‘pushed away ships’

South China Sea: Expert warns Beijing about ‘US influence’

The footage shared by the US Navy displayed just how close a Chinese vessel came to its US counterparts as the forces undertook freedom of navigation patrols. As the ships drew closer to one another, Chinese military personnel could be seen preparing buoys to absorb any impact between the ships. In the footage, one US soldier is recorded saying: “We interacted with a Luyang- II DDG, CPA was 45 yards. “They were positioning in to close on our port side, they were trying to push us out of the way.”

The Chinese military defended its actions following the patrol in September 2018.

They said China “resolutely opposes” efforts from other countries to challenge its sovereignty.

The near-miss occured in the Spratly Islands chain, which has been at the centre of hostile disputes between Beijing and its neighbouring Asian countries.

According to Professor Kerry Brown of Chatham House, the lack of regular messaging between Chinese and US ships could be the cause of inadvertent conflict between two of the world’s most deadly forces.

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He told Express.co.uk: “There could be a misunderstanding, there could be an instance where it escalates.

“At the moment dialogue between the US and China military to military is poor, some people say it’s worse than between the USSR and the US during the Cold War.

“There was a lot more contact then than there is now with China, therefore misunderstandings are horribly, horribly possible.”

China has attempted to assert its authority over 90 percent of the South China Sea with its Nine-Dash line claim.

The South China Sea is hotly contested because of its lucrative shipping lanes, capacity for military strategic advantages and wealth of natural resources such as oil and minerals.

At the centre of this disagreement are various island clusters such as the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands.

China has had particularly tense relations with Vietnam and the Philippines over islands in the region.

Island claims are important because under the UNCLOS (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea) negotiated in the Seventies and Eighties, there are no provisions granting ownership of waters without regard to land-based sovereign rights.

Despite pushback from UNCLOS and other countries near the South China Sea, Beijing has undertaken intense militarisation of the region.

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Described by many as “island fortresses”, China has engulfed the South China Sea with man made island bases.

The islands boast runways, hangars, control towers, helipads and radomes as well as a series of multistorey buildings that China has built on reefs.

The moving of its aircraft carriers airstrips and weapons into the region has earned the cluster of bases the nickname: “The Great Wall of Sand.”

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