Watch CBS News

China fumes over U.S. Navy destroyer's patrol in disputed South China Sea

Concerns over China's influence in Taiwan
Concerns over Taiwan's future grows as China warns it will "fight at all costs" if the U.S. helps the island secede 05:12

Beijing — The U.S. Navy on Wednesday sailed a destroyer close to China-controlled islands in the South China Sea. Washington said the patrol was aimed at asserting freedom of navigation through the strategic seaway, virtually all of which China claims as its territorial waters.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold sailed past the Paracel Islands and continued thereafter with operations in the South China Sea. The operation "upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea," the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet said in a news release.

Handout image of Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold
The U.S. Navy's Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65), forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations, conducts operations in the South China Sea, in a handout picture released July 13, 2022. U.S. Navy/Handout/REUTERS

Such operations are considered key to the U.S. Navy maintaining its presence in the Indo-Pacific, where China has sought to grow its own presence through a massive ship building campaign.

Beijing has also alarmed the U.S., Australia and New Zealand with the signing of a mutual defense agreement with the Solomon Islands, under which it could receive Chinese troops in emergencies and possibly establish a permanent Chinese military presence.

Tensions rise as Beijing steps up military presence in South China Sea 08:58

In response to the Benfold's passage, China's Southern Theater Command tracked the vessel's movements and ordered it to leave the area, Air Force Col. Tian Junli was quoted as saying on the Defense Ministry's website.
The statement attributed to Junli said the American warship had "illegally entered" China's territorial waters and that the Chinese army "organized naval and air forces to track and monitor it, send warnings and drive it away."

"The actions of the U.S. military have seriously violated China's sovereignty and security, seriously undermined the peace and stability of the South China Sea, and seriously violated international law and norms of international relations," protested the Chinese military in the statement.
China claims ownership over virtually the entire South China Sea. Around $5 trillion in global trade passes through the strategic waterway each year, and it also holds highly valuable fish stocks and undersea mineral resources. The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan all lay competing claims to the waters.

President Biden meets with Indo-Pacific leaders to discuss security in South China Sea 03:43

Over recent years, as China has built bigger, more advanced navy vessels and developed its military infrastructure across the region, all while vowing to assert complete control over democratically governed Taiwan, by force if necessary.

The U.S. and its allies have responded with the so-called freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, the narrow body of water that separates mainland China from the small autonomous island. The patrols sometimes encounter pushback from China's military.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last month said China represented the "most serious long-term challenge to the international order" for the United States with its maritime claims and its mounting rhetoric about exerting control over Taiwan. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.