The Chinese government has expressed strong opposition on United States’ move to sail Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Lassen within 12 nautical-mile territorial water of fake Chinese islands, reportedly Subi (Zamora) and Mischief (Panganiban) reefs in West Philippine Sea October 27. “Relevant actions by the US naval vessel threatened China’s sovereignty and security interests, put the personnel and facilities on the islands and reefs at risk and endangered regional peace and stability,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said at a press conference.
He also reiterated China’s “indisputable sovereignty” over Spratly Islands and relevant waters. He added that building activities in the area is normal. “It is justified for us to carry out relevant construction for the purpose of providing public goods and services and facilitating navigation in the region.”
Lu Kang said that any country who wants China to halt activities in West Philippine Sea should stop the illusion. “If any countries attempt to disrupt or impede the aforementioned lawful, justified and reasonable actions by the Chinese side with maneuvers, I advise those countries to cast aside the illusion the sooner the better.”
“If the relevant party keeps creating tension and stirring up troubles in the region, the Chinese side may have to reach the conclusion that we do need to step up and speed up relevant capacity building. We advise the US not to take self-defeating actions,” the Chinese spokesman said.
US State Department spokesperson John Kirby said “freedom of navigation in international waters is an essential principle. It’s why – it’s one of the reasons why a nation has a navy, and it’s an important principle to exercise and to be able to demonstrate. And when you conduct freedom of navigation operations in international waters, they are in international waters and therefore aren’t aimed or directed and shouldn’t be construed as a threat by anybody.”
According to UNCLOS “every State has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles.” However, a low-tide elevation which is wholly situated at a distance exceeding the breadth of the territorial sea from the mainland or an island, it has no territorial sea of its own.
UNCLOS added that “artificial islands, installations and structures do not possess the status of islands. They have no territorial sea of their own, and their presence does not affect the delimitation of the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone or the continental shelf.”