The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has said it “expelled” the USS John S McCain from the South China Sea after the US destroyer “trespassed” in the disputed waters of the Spratly Islands.
China claims historic rights over almost all of the islands in the South China Sea and their surrounding waters.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the PLA’s Southern Theatre Command, accused the US Navy of entering the disputed waters “without Chinese government authorisation”.
It then claimed that the ship “was warned and expelled from the area by China’s navy and air force”.
The US Navy denies that it was expelled from the area, according to UPI, noting in a statement on Tuesday that, “US forces operate in the South China Sea on a daily basis, as they have for more than a century”.
The destroyer, part of the US Seventh Fleet, was shadowed by Chinese warships as it sailed through the Spratly Islands, according to NBC.
The reefs the US warship sailed past are claimed by China and contain PLA military fortifications.
Reefs in the Spratly Islands are claimed not only by China, but also Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.
While China has accused the US of trespassing and undermining security in the South China Sea, the Americans claim they are exercising their navigational rights in accordance with international law.
It was the ninth time in 2020 the US Navy had conducted “freedom of navigation” operations near Chinese-controlled reefs.
The latest maritime dispute comes just days after China’s newest aircraft carrier Shandong alarmed observers by sailing to the South China Sea via the narrow Taiwan Strait.