(UR) South China Sea — A day after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte officially announced his country’s separation from the United States, and on the last day of Duterte’s historic — and highly profitable — visit to China, it was reported Friday that for the first time since May, the U.S. Navy has sailed a warship into the South China Sea.
“A U.S. navy destroyer sailed near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea on Friday, drawing a warning from Chinese warships to leave the area,” writes Reuters. “The U.S. action was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s effort to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, U.S. officials said.”
The objective of the guided-missile destroyer, the U.S.S. Decatur, was, according to the unnamed officials, to challenge the “excessive maritime claims” of China regarding islands, reefs, and shoals near the Paracel Islands.
This assertion was confirmed at a press briefing by White House spokesman Josh Earnest, who said:
“This operation demonstrated that coastal states may not unlawfully restrict the navigation rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea that the United States and all states are entitled to exercise under international law.”
The Decatur, according to the Pentagon, “conducted this transit in a routine, lawful manner without escorts” and completed its task “without incident.” Nevertheless, the destroyer was shadowed by three Chinese warships — two of which, claims China’s Defense Ministry, warned the Decatur to leave the area.
The Ministry of Defense also called the U.S. move “illegal” and “provocative.”
The news comes the day after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte officially stated the future of his country would take shape within the Chinese sphere of influence, as opposed to that of longtime ally, the U.S.
“In this venue, your honors, in this venue, I announce my separation from the United States,” Duterte said Thursday, before an audience which included China’s Vice Premier.
The comments were made as President Duterte, along with over 200 prominent Filipino businesspeople, is visiting China — at the invitation of the Chinese president — with the goal of establishing renewed trade with the regional powerhouse.
That trip, which concludes Friday, will reportedly net Filipino businesses $13.5 billion in trade deals.
But Duterte went much further than that on Thursday, with the often-outrageous leader suggesting that by aligning his nation with China, the Philippines has instantly risen to the rank of global superpower.
“I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow,” he said of China, “and maybe I will also go to talk with (Russian President) Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world — China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way.”
“While such grand talk from the Philippine President is hardly surprising — indeed, it’s nearly expected at this point — and is undoubtedly wishful thinking on his part, it nonetheless demonstrates that Duterte sees the writing on the wall.
“Two forces are taking shape in the buildup to what could very well be World War III — those aligned with the United States and West, and those supporting the steadily growing Eurasian bloc, led by Russia and China.
“President Duterte, very clearly, has put his money on the Russian-Chinese superstate.”
All of which makes the timing of the U.S.S. Decatur’s excursion somewhat suspect. As Reuters pointed out, after all, while this is the fourth such naval exercise over the past year, it’s the first conducted since May.
Additionally, beyond the $13.5 billion in trade deals the Filipino business world will soon enjoy, it was reported Wednesday China is now very likely to extend fishing rights to the South China Sea to Filipino fisherman — negating, at least for the Philippines, the U.S. claim that China is attempting to “unlawfully restrict” access to those waters.
In any case, the days of the U.S. using the plight of the Philippines as an excuse to prowl around the boundary lines of China are soon drawing to a close, as Duterte himself intimated to China’s Xinhua news agency:
“There is no sense in going to war. There is no sense fighting over a body of water. It is better to talk than war. We want to talk about friendship, we want to talk about cooperation, and most of all, we want to talk about business. War would lead us nowhere.”
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