Hawkins also said Washington's presence in the area intends to “promote regional security” and “guarantee free commerce,” considered “crucial” for the economies of Asian countries and the United States.
For its part, China recognizes all countries' freedom of flight and navigation in the South China Sea, but will not accept any country's actions that risk China's national interests or those of any regional countries.
Washington considers most of the South China Sea to be international waters, including the locations of islands artificially build by China and used mostly as military bases. The U.S. usually navigates boats and flies aircrafts on and over territories they consider under international sovereignty, calling them “Freedom of Navigation” operations.
“International law allows us to operate here, allows us to fly here, allows us to train here, allows us to sail here, and that’s what we’re doing and we’re going to continue to do that,” Hawkins said.
Beijing claims most of the sea, including zones close to the coasts of many Southeast Asian countries and reaffirms its “indisputable sovereignty” over the region.
In past days, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged the U.S. not to defy their country's sovereignty or build tensions in the zone under the “Freedom of Navigation” operations. Parts of the South China Sea are claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.
- Countries: United_States