China Claims US Warship 'Illegally' Entered Territorial Waters

    Last updated Mar 24, 2023
    Image credit: Reuters [via Al Jazeera]


    • The Chinese military said on Thursday it had dispatched naval and air forces to track a US warship and "warned it to leave" waters in the disputed South China Sea, which Beijing claims as its territory.[1]
    • The People's Liberation Army's Southern Theater Command claimed that the guided-missile destroyer USS Milieus illegally entered Chinese territorial waters around the Paracel Islands, undermining 'peace and stability' as well as China's national sovereignty.[2]
    • On Thursday, the US military rejected the Chinese claims that the US destroyer had been driven out of disputed waters around the archipelago, saying the vessel was conducting 'routine operations' in the South China Sea in compliance with international law.[3]
    • Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea — a strategic shipping route which sees trillions of US dollars worth of trade transit annually and boasts vast fish stocks and valuable mineral resources.[4]
    • While China's territorial assertions reportedly lack international legitimacy, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei also make claims to the South China Sea. The US is deploying naval vessels to the disputed waters to ensure what it considers freedom of navigation in international waters.[5]
    • Meanwhile, the US military reportedly confirmed it had recently conducted several exercises in the region, including the East China Sea, Philippine Sea, and South China Sea, amid rising tensions between China and the US in the Indo-Pacific region.[6]


    Pro-China narrative

    This incident is just the latest example of the US desperately trying to provoke China on its own doorstep by denying its sovereignty and legitimate claims to the Paracel and Spratly Islands. Washington is simultaneously trying to portray China as a threat, and seeking to continue dominating the world through militarism and intimidation. Nevertheless, whatever Washington cooks up in China, it has itself created an adversary that will not back down.

    Anti-China narrative

    There are no grounds to China's accusations that the US illegally entered its territorial waters because it lacks any legal basis for its extensive territorial claims in the South China Sea, including over the Paracel and Spratly Islands. Moreover, Beijing is continuing to militarize its disputed maritime outposts and advance its interests in the region by intimidating its Asian neighbors. The US is committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific and remains the only power to keep China within its limits.

    Narrative C

    The only reasonable way to resolve disputes over sovereignty claims in the South China Sea is through talks between China and its Southeast Asian neighbors. It is welcome, given increasing US-China tensions, that Beijing and the ASEAN regional bloc have expressed their commitment to negotiations toward an effective code of conduct to safeguard peace and stability that can take place without the input of Washington.

    Nerd narrative

    There is a 14% chance that there will be a US-China war before 2035, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

    Establishment split



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