“Our presence in the South China Sea demonstrates America’s commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Capt. Fred Goldhammer, commanding officer of the Ronald Reagan, was quoted as saying in a news release.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Wednesday reiterated China’s rejection of a 2016 Hague arbitration ruling brought by the Philippines under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea that invalidated Beijing’s vast territorial claims in the South China Sea.
“China neither accepts nor recognizes (the ruling). China will never accept any claim or action based on this award,” Wang said at a daily briefing.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday issued a call for China to abide by the ruling and warned that Washington is obligated to defend treaty ally Philippines if its forces, vessels, or aircraft come under attack in the disputed waters.
While publicly pursuing closer ties with the Philippines government, China has moved aggressively to assert its control in disputed waters with its vastly superior coast guard and naval assets.
Dozens of left-wing activists and workers protested in front of the Chinese Consulate in Manila’s Makati financial district on Tuesday, asking Beijing to respect the arbitration ruling and for newly elected President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to defend the country’s territory and sovereign rights in the South China Sea.
Washington lays no claim to the disputed waters but has deployed Navy ships and Air Force jets to patrol the waterway for decades and says freedom of navigation and overflight is in the US national interest. China has responded angrily, accusing the US of meddling in a purely Asian dispute and demanding it leaves the region where it has had a naval presence for more than a century.
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