On July 16, a US Navy warship challenged Chinese claims to disputed islands in the South China Sea.

The 7th Fleet said their guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65) sailed near the Spratly Islands in the southeastern South China Sea in a so-called “freedom of navigation operation” (FONOP) and asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the region, consistent with international law.

Also, on July 13, Beijing was angry with the US Navy’s FONOP. China’s military said it had “driven away” the same USS Benfold when it reached near the disputed Paracel Islands.

China claims it doesn’t obstruct freedom of navigation or overflight and accuses the United States of instigating tensions on purpose.

However, the U.S. Navy stated that China’s illegal and extensive maritime claims in the South China Sea pose many severe threats to the countries along the South China Sea.

In addition, China’s expansive claims to the South China Sea, a route for approximately $3 trillion in annual shipborne trade, were declared unlawful by an international tribunal six years ago. However, this country has never agreed.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei have to compete and often overlap claims.

According to Reuters, China has built artificial islands on some of its South China Sea holdings, including airports, raising regional concerns about its intentions.

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