South China Sea: Furious Beijing tells US ‘focus on COVID-19’ after warship seen in region

On Tuesday the US ship was afloat off the Paracel Islands, that China has claimed for itself. China then accused the US destroyer, the USS Barry, of carrying out a provocative act. Beijing then scrambled aircraft and deployed ships stating that the US guided-missile destroyer was violating Chinese sovereignty.

The Chinese military said it then set in action a procedure to “track, monitor, verify, identify and expel” the US ship.

Beijing added a piece of advice that seemed particularly conceitful by suggesting the US military go home and focus on COVID-19 prevention, “rather destabilising regional peace and security”.

China’s Navy declared the US “illegally trespassed” into its territorial waters adding the ship had “intruded without permission”.

The Paracel Islands are an archipelago in the South China Sea.

They are now believed to host Chinese surface-to-air missiles.

The main island is known as Woody island to the US and its allies.

It is currently occupied by China, which calls it Yongxing.

The island is also claimed by Vietnam, which calls it Phu Lam, as well as by Taiwan.

Reports of the presence of missiles on the island have added to concerns about the militarisation of the South China Sea.

And now with the current worldwide pandemic, both Washington and Beijing have accused the other side of using coronavirus as a distraction to exercise more military control in the South China Sea.

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Tensions are escalating in the region, especially in the Taiwan Strait.

One day after the USS Barry’s April 22 transit of the Taiwan Strait, the Chinese Liaoning aircraft carrier strike group also transited the Taiwan Strait.

In addition to the present operations, the US destroyer had been active in the South China Sea operating with the guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill and the amphibious assault ship USS America.

These ships were performing operations off the coast of Malaysia near an ongoing disputed region of the seabed.

The disputed region is actively being patrolled by Malaysia and China, over rights to mineral exploration.

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