USS Milwaukee will head towards the much disputed South China Sea islands as the West continues to challenge Beijing's claims on the region. Furthermore, China refuses accusations of building a military base in Spratly and urges other countries not to engage in military operations.
The littoral combat ship was commissioned at Milwaukee's Veterans Park on Saturday. Cmdr. Kendall Bridgewater said that the USS Milwaukee along with other littoral combat ships offer "incredible change" to the Navy. Littoral combat ships operate at faster speeds. They can also come closer to the shore compared to other vessels. USS Milwaukee's sister ship, the USS Fort Worth, is already on duty in the South China Sea. Soon, the new ship will coordinate with Navy patrols to navigate in the disputed waterway, according to the Journal Sentinel.
"Like the USS Fort Worth, the USS Milwaukee represents the best of our nation and our Navy," said Rear Adm. Brian Antonio. Reuters reported previously that the Navy will navigate within 12 nautical miles of China's artificial islands before the year ends. President Barack Obama, along with other world leaders, urged China previously to refrain from continuing military activities in the South China Sea. The West and its allies are concerned the country can spark war should it continue with its efforts in the disputed islands.
China maintained it is not militarising the region.
"China does not seek to 'militarise' the South China Sea," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei during a press briefing. Other Asian countries like the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei have been claiming sovereignty over the region.
The Philippines disputed China's claims through a submission to the UN Tribunal. “China’s claims to sovereign rights and jurisdiction, and to ‘historic rights,’ with respect to the maritime areas of the South China Sea encompassed by the so-called ‘nine-dash line’ are contrary to the convention and without lawful effect to the extent that they exceed the geographic and substantive limits of China’s maritime entitlements under UNCLOS,” The Guardian quoted parts of the submission. The UN Tribunal will rule out over the South China Sea islands this Tuesday during a meeting at The Hague.
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