The United States has welcomed a plan by NATO ally Germany to sail a warship across the disputed South China Sea for the first time in nearly two decades amid tensions with China in the resource-rich waters.
Officials from the German government’s foreign and defense ministries said Tuesday that a German frigate would sail to Asia in August and cross the South China Sea on its return journey, becoming the first German warship to cross the disputed waters since 2002.
China claims sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea. The strategic body of water serves as a gateway to global sea lanes through which some $3.4 trillion in trade flows each year. Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims with China to parts of the sea.
On Wednesday, Washington welcomed the German government’s plan, knowing that it would almost certainly worry China.
In response to the German plan, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said the countries have freedom of navigation and overflight in the waterway under international law.
However, he stressed, “You can’t take it as an excuse to undermine the sovereignty and security of coastal countries.”
Back in January, Beijing passed a law that for the first time allowed its coast guard to open fire on foreign vessels that pose a threat.
The resource-rich South China Sea has been a source of tension between Beijing and Washington, which not only cooperates with Beijing’s rivals in the maritime dispute but also regularly sends its warships and fighter jets into the waters, justifying it with the words “freedom of navigation patrols.”
by Xavier Cuesta – European Correspondent – EuroNews