A US Navy cruiser conducted a freedom-of-navigation operation Monday near the Paracel Islands in the disputed South China Sea, where China has installed several military outposts as it asserts dominance in the region.
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville “sailed near the Paracel Islands to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law,” US Navy Cmdr. Nathan Christensen.
These ships are multi-mission [Air Warfare (AW), Undersea Warfare (USW), Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS) and Surface Warfare (SUW)] surface combatants capable of supporting carrier battle groups, amphibious forces, or of operating independently and as flagships of surface action groups. Cruisers are equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles giving them additional long-range Strike Warfare (STRW) capability. Some Aegis Cruisers have been outfitted with a Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) capability.
The action, which provoked the Chinese, was meant to challenge China’s discredited claims to the strategic waterway.
“China had occupied all the Paracel Islands since 1974 when its troops seized a South Vietnamese garrison occupying the western islands. China built a military installation on Woody Island with an airfield and artificial harbor. The islands also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.”
“FONOPs challenge excessive maritime claims and demonstrate our commitment to uphold the rights, freedoms, and uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law.”
Two days after the latest FONOP, the US Navy bothered China again by sending a destroyer and an oiler through the Taiwan Strait. The destroyer USS Stockdale and the underway replenishment oiler USNS Pecos pushed through the closely-watched strait Wednesday, drawing some criticism from Beijing.
“We urge the United States to … cautiously and appropriately handle the Taiwan issue and avoid damaging the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait and China-US relations,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang said Thursday.
In addition to US Navy FONOPs, the US Air Force has regularly sent B-52 bombers into the South China Sea, occasionally drawing Beijing’s anger.