Challenging Waters: USS Giffords’ Bold Move in the South China Sea Sparks Controversy

Published on December 6, 2023 by

On December 4th, a United States naval ship made headlines by conducting the first-ever freedom of navigation operation near the disputed Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea. This move, however, was quickly met with condemnation from China, labeling it as ‘illegal.’

The USS Giffords littoral combat ship boldly trespassed into the waters adjacent to Ren’ai Reef in China’s Nansha Islands without seeking approval from the Chinese government, according to Col. Tian Junli, spokesperson for the Chinese military’s Southern Theater Command.

In response, the US 7th Fleet defended its actions, stating, ‘Every day the U.S. 7th Fleet operates in the South China Sea, as they have for decades. These operations demonstrate we are committed to upholding a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

This incident unfolded against the backdrop of longstanding tensions in the region, where geopolitical interests often clash. The Philippines, with its outpost on Second Thomas Shoal—the BRP Sierra Madre warship—maintained by a contingent of marines, finds itself at the center of these maritime disputes.

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