US, Chinese Navy chiefs tackle maritime tensions on Spratlys

By , on October 30, 2015

Map showing various countries occupying the Spratly Islands (Photo from the Central Intelligence Agency)
Map showing various countries occupying the Spratly Islands (Photo from the Central Intelligence Agency)

MANILA – The US and Chinese Navy chiefs held an hour-long teleconference over maritime tensions, following the US naval maneuver which challenged Beijing’s claim over the disputed Spratly Islands.

US Navy chief of operations Admiral John Richardson and his Chinese counterpart, Admiral Wu Shengli, discussed the recent US patrol on the waters surrounding Beijing’s artificial islands in the contested region, as well as naval ties.

China slammed the US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen which sailed within its territories in the South China Sea, asserting that it threatened Beijing’s sovereignty and security. Chinese Executive Minister Zhang Yesui urged American Ambassador Max Bacaus to protest against the ‘provocative’ action.

The USS Lassen entered international waters around Subi and Mischief Reefs, claimed by both China and the Philippines. Chinese authorities reportedly monitored and warned the US warship as it approached the area.

Despite China’s repeated objection over the move, the US noted that the naval maneuver was not a one-time operation but succeeding patrols were still to come as the country ‘would serve the right to carry out those kinds of operations in the future.’

“The reason the United States is interested here is that we’re not making claims on those land features there but we certainly do have a financial interest and a broader strategic interest in ensuring that freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce continues unimpeded in the South China Sea,” White House spokesman John Richardson said in an report.

The US claimed that international law gave military vessels the right of ‘innocent passage’ in sailing over international seas and other country’s waters without notification.

Beijing, for its part, respected the right of navigation but has not specified the legal status of its maritime claims. It then stressed that it would ‘never allow any country to violate its sovereignty’ and will take ‘all necessary’ measures should the US Navy conduct more patrols within its territorial waters.

Backstory: US warship sails near Chinese-reclaimed islands

While the two countries disagreed about the international passage issue, both US and China agreed that they will continue with their naval cooperation, port visits, senior leader meetings and ‘ongoing dialogues.’

“The US-China relationship is vitally important and one that we want to see continue to improve and to grow for the benefit of both our countries, not to mention the region,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a different report.

Richardson and Shengli have been set to hold another meeting later this year.