Washington: – Two US warships sailed near the Paracel islands in the South China Sea in what can be seen as US’ warning to China. In the last few days China, by deploying fighter jets and missiles on the artificial islands in the South China Sea, has increased the tension in this region. US officials say this move was to counter China’s aggression.
Anti-missile warship ‘USS Higgins’ and missile cruiser ‘USS Antietam’ sailed in the South China Sea early Sunday. Both the ships completed their assignments in the Arabian Sea and were dispatched to the Asia-Pacific region.
Two US officials,on the condition of anonymity said that these warships patrolled near the artificial islands ‘Woody’, ‘Lincoln’, ‘Tree’ and ‘Triton’ in the Paracel group of islands. US’ patrolling near the Woody Island is said to be a provocation for China.
In the last few years, China has claimed sovereignty over the maritime territory of South China Sea and has built more than hundred artificial islands in the region. These include islands in the Paracel, Scarborough and Spratly regions. These artificial islands have not gained international recognition and countries like Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan and Brunei from South East Asia have alleged China of encroaching their maritime regions by building these artificial islands.
Since past few months, China has upped its military activities on the Paracel islands, which are being claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam as their rightful territory. In the past ten days, China had deployed ‘J-11’ fighter jets on the Woody islands in Paracel. US has also alleged deployment of missile defence systems by China on the islands. Besides this, a Chinese military aircraft had landed on the artificial island in the Paracel region. Anti-aircraft cannons and drones have also been deployed.
The United States and allies had alleged China for militarising of the South China Sea. US had also said that by doing this, China is hampering free movement of the international transport in the South China Sea. But Chinese President Xi Jinping, who surveyed the war exercises in this region last month, declared that this military preparedness is for protection of Chinese interests.