U.S. sails warship to challenge China’s territorial sea claim at Mischief Reef – China’s latest political and current affairs news


A summary of the top news in Chinese politics and current affairs for May 25, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina news roundup "Tony Blair’s private planes and Guo Wengui."

The U.S. on May 25 sailed a warship in the South China Sea within 12 miles of Mischief Reef, part of the Spratly Islands chain, which is controlled by China but claimed in parts by Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Reuters noted that in this instance, the first freedom of navigation operation in the area by the Trump administration, the ship not only passed through (asserting a right to “innocent passage”) but stopped and performed a drill (asserting a right to “maneuver” in international waters). Reuters obtained comments from Greg Poling, a Washington-based expert on the South China Sea disputes, who explained the point that the U.S. was trying to make: that Mischief Reef in particular, under international law, is “not entitled to a territorial sea, as it was underwater at high tide before it was built up by China.”

China rejected the point with anger. A Foreign Ministry spokesperson said China was “strongly dissatisfied” with the action, and claimed that China had “indisputable sovereignty” over all the Spratly Islands “and their adjacent waters.” The New York Times additionally notes (paywall) that China said the maneuver had disrupted a period of warming relations between China and the Philippines, and a period of developing military-to-military relations with the U.S.

Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post reports that “Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for greater efforts to make the country’s navy world class.” The report points out that exact funding for the Chinese navy is unknown, and China’s overall military budget is believed by many experts to be higher than the official figure of $151.6 billion.