The US military has denied Chinese allegations of chasing US warships away from disputed islands in the South China Sea.
China’s Southern Theater Command has claimed to have forced the USS Milius, a guided missile destroyer part of the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, away from the disputed Paracel Islands.
Lieutenant J.J. Luka Bakic on Thursday “The aircraft carrier Milius carries out routine operations in the South China Sea and has not been fired.” The United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows.
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Chinese forces occupy the Paracels, but they contest the claims of both Taiwan and Vietnam.
A spokesman for China’s Southern Command, Col. Tian Junli, had earlier claimed that the Milius aircraft carrier “illegally entered China’s Xisha territorial waters without the approval of the Chinese government, undermining peace and stability in the South China Sea.”
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“The theater forces will maintain high alert at all times and take all necessary measures to resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security, peace and stability in the South China Sea,” the spokesperson said.
Military infrastructure and a naval presence in the Pacific have become major considerations as tensions between the United States and China continue to escalate.
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On Wednesday, China scored another win in the South Pacific after winning a multimillion-dollar bid in the Solomon Islands to modernize an international port in the capital, Honiara.
However, the move is likely to raise some concerns on the part of the United States and its regional allies, Australia and Japan, who have expressed concern about Chinese interests in building a naval base in the region.
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Last month, the Philippines granted the United States access to four more military bases, allowing Washington to expand its presence in the region and strengthen its deterrence against Chinese aggression.
In a statement from the Department of Defense, the United States and the Philippines will accelerate “full implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the agreement to designate four new agreed-upon sites in strategic regions of the country.”
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