The US Navy has sent a message to China by dispatching a guided-missile destroyer, USS Milius, close to Mischief Reef in the South China Sea. The move comes amid rising tensions between the US and China over territorial disputes in the region. Mischief Reef, which lies within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines, is also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan, but China has built military structures on the island to reinforce its territorial claims. The US Navy’s operation sends a clear signal of its commitment to maintaining freedom of navigation in the region, and challenging China’s claims to disputed territories.
Challenging China’s Claims in the South China Sea
The US Navy’s operation near Mischief Reef is part of its ongoing efforts to challenge China’s expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea. China has been steadily building military installations on artificial islands in the region, asserting its claims to vast swathes of the sea, which are disputed by several Southeast Asian nations. The US, which has no territorial claims in the region, has been conducting freedom of navigation operations to assert its right to navigate through international waters. By sailing within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, the USS Milius is challenging China’s claims to the region, and demonstrating its commitment to upholding the rule of law and international norms.
Tensions Rise Between US and China Over Taiwan
The US Navy’s operation comes amid rising tensions between the US and China over Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province. On April 9, China flew 25 military aircraft, including fighter jets and bombers, into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, the largest incursion yet by the Chinese military. The move was in response to a visit by Taiwan’s president to the US, which China views as a provocative act. The US has been increasing its support for Taiwan in recent years, with the Biden administration reaffirming its commitment to the island’s defense. China has warned the US to stay out of Taiwan’s affairs, but the US has continued to provide military aid and support to the island nation. The latest US Navy operation is likely to further inflame tensions between the two superpowers, who are engaged in a fierce competition for dominance in the region.