/ May 27, 2021
The U.S. Navy has characterized as “false” a statement from China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) claiming that a U.S. guided-missile destroyer had been forced to withdraw from the South China Sea area near disputed islands.
The USS Curtis Wilbur had been conducting a freedom of navigation operation near the Parcel Islands. U.S. Navy officials denied Chinese claims that the warship was forced to withdraw from the area by a PLA warship.
China’s claim “is the latest in a long string of actions to misrepresent lawful U.S. maritime operations and asserts its excessive and illegitimate maritime claims at the expense in the Southeast Asian neighbors in the South China Sea,” the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet said.
China, Taiwan and Vietnam all claim the Parcels and require either permission or advance notification before military ships can pass nearby.
“The PLA’s statement about this mission is false,” the Seventh Fleet said in a rare and lengthy public rebuttal of Chinese propaganda claims.
The USS Curtis Wilbur “was not ‘expelled’ from any nation’s territory. USS Curtis Wilbur conducted this [operation] in accordance with international law and then continued on to conduct normal operations in international waters,” the Seventh Fleet’s statement said.
The U.S. State Department in 2020 declared most Chinese claims to the South China Sea “completely unlawful” under international law, following a 2016 ruling by an international tribunal ruling that China has no historic claims to owning the sea, security correspondent Bill Gertz reported for the Washington Times.
“The United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, as USS Curtis Wilbur did here,” the Navy said.
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