A US Navy destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles or within the territorial waters of an island [Triton Island, part of the Paracel Islands] claimed by China in the South China Sea, in a sign of increasing tension in the region days after Secretary of State John Kerry visited Beijing attempting to settle long standing territorial disputes. Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to the island as well.
One small correction: the destroyer, the USS Curtis Wilbur, did not sail within the territorial waters of the PRC, even though it sailed within 12 nm of Triton in the western part of the South China Sea, roughly 250 miles east of Vietnam. The Paracels are not the territory of the PRC; its claim is just part of its overall grab for the entire Sea.
That’s part of the reason such sails-by are necessary: to emphasize the illegitimacy of the PRC’s claim and of its attempts to occupy the islands. We need more of these sailings, and we need frequent flyovers, too. These are things, though, that the Obama administration is too timid to do, or is unable to understand the necessity of the doing, or both.
Captain Jeff Davis, speaking for the Pentagon (and so for President Barack Obama (D)):
This operation was about challenging excessive maritime claims that restrict the rights and freedoms of the United States and others, not about territorial claims to land features[.]
[Last] week in Beijing, Secretary Kerry refused to criticize his host publicly or accuse the Chinese of wrong doing in the South China Sea over the build-up of artificial islands worrying its neighbors in the region. …the United States “does not take sides on the sovereignty questions underlying the territorial disputes.”
This is what’s wrong. We should be challenging the PRC over its expansionist occupation. If we truly do not “take sides on the sovereignty questions,” then we really do need to challenge, explicitly, the PRC’s seizures; that’s the bare minimum necessary to preserve the balance among the competing claims over those islands, and of the Spratlys, and of the South China Sea as a whole, which the PRC has occupied (and of the East China Sea, which the PRC also has moved to occupy).