South China Sea row erupts as US sends in carrier strike groups to oppose Beijing

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A think tank based in Beijing has said two US military vessels, the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Essex, plus various attached vessels, crossed into the maritime territory on Tuesday. The South China Sea Strategic Situation Proving Initiative added that they entered the southern waters of the South China Sea this week.

The South China Morning Post reported the US Navy will conduct joint drills in the international waterways claimed by numerous nations.

The islands and waterways in the South China Sea are claimed by several countries, including China, the Philippines and Vietnam.

The US Navy has not confirmed the military exercises.

The area boasts natural resource deposits of oil and gas, and is key for international shipping routes.

The US State Department this week rejected Beijing’s claims on the region, suggesting these “gravely undermine the rule of law”.

America rejected their “historic claims” to the key trade route – and rebuked that Beijing had “some form of exclusive jurisdiction over most of the South China Sea”.

The report released on Wednesday added: “For this reason, the United States and numerous other States have rejected these claims in favour of the rules-based international maritime order within the South China Sea and worldwide.”

Referring to China, the report detailed: “The PRC has stated that its historic rights are ‘protected by international law’, but it has not provided a legal justification for such a claim.”

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Beijing’s rationale for its claims rest largely on what is called known as the ‘nine-dash line’.

The term is used to describe what China considers to be the extent of its claims to the waters dating back through history.

The eastern superpower has spent recent years bolstering its military presence in the South China Sea, even constructing artificial islands on which to install military equipment.

In October 2021, Malaysia accused China of trespassing in its exclusive economic zone off the island of Borneo, adding that Beijing should remove its “presence and activities” from the area.

Malaysia said at the time: “Malaysia’s consistent position and actions are based on international law, in defence of our sovereignty and sovereign rights in our waters.

“Malaysia had also protested against the previous encroachments by other foreign vessels in our waters.”

A Japanese newspaper also reported on Thursday that Japan had completed military manoeuvres in the South China Sea last year “to warn China”.