“Under the pretext of ‘freedom of navigation,’ the US side once again sent a military vessel into China’s territorial waters off the Xisha Islands without China’s approval,” the spokesperson said in a statement, adding that such US behavior “violated Chinese law and relevant international law, infringed upon China’s sovereignty, and disrupted the peace, security and order of the relevant waters.”
“China dispatched military vessels and fighter planes in response to warn off the US vessel,” the statement reads.
“The Chinese side is dissatisfied with, and opposed to, the relevant behavior of the US side,” Lu added, calling the US warplane’s maneuvers a “serious political and military provocation.” He said that the US is “deliberately stirring up troubles in the South China Sea, as well as running in the opposite direction from countries in the region who aspire for stability, cooperation and development.”
The US Navy did not officially confirm the operation. The US Pacific Fleet spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Matt Knight, told Fox News that the fleet conducts “routine and regular FONOPs, as we have done in the past and will continue to do in the future,” without specifically mentioning the Sunday incident.
However, an unidentified US Defense Department official earlier told Reuters that the US Navy destroyer USS Stethem came within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island, which is a part of the Paracel Islands located in the South China Sea between China and Vietnam.
The head of US Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris, recently criticized China’s activity in the region. “China is using its military and economic power to erode the rules-based international order,” he said in a speech delivered on Wednesday in Brisbane during the joint US-Australian military exercises.
“Fake islands should not be believed by real people,” he added, as reported by Fox News.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank, said in its recent report that “Beijing has undertaken substantial upgrades of its military infrastructure in the Paracels” and particularly started building new facilities on Triton Island.
It was the second such operation conducted by the US during Donald Trump’s presidency. On May 24, the US Navy guided-missile destroyer, the USS Dewey, came within 12 miles of the Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands – another disputed archipelago that lies in the southern part of the South China Sea.
At that time, the Chinese Defense Ministry also sent two frigates to “warn off” the US vessel and said that it was “firmly opposed to the US behavior of showing force and boosting regional militarization.”
The Paracel Islands are contested by China, Taiwan and Vietnam while the Spratlys are also additionally claimed by the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. China claims sovereignty over a large part of the South China Sea, a region crucial for China’s maritime trade.
China has already built runways, aircraft hangars, radar sites and hardened surface-to-air missile shelters on its artificially-created islands in the region, according to photos analyzed by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
Beijing’s actions have sparked concerns in Washington and the US Navy, which is fiercely opposed to this Chinese initiative, has deployed additional warships in the disputed zone, conducted maneuvers near China’s artificial islands, and flown over them, claiming it has been done in the interest of the “freedom of navigation.”
In response, China called Washington’s involvement in the dispute the “greatest” threat to the region.
In early June, China and the US both held exercises involving air and navy forces, in another episode of confrontation over the disputed South China Sea. The US sent two B-1B Lancer supersonic bombers to fly a 10-hour mission from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, which was conducted in conjunction with the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer the USS Sterett.
A day earlier, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) conducted its own air and navy exercise off Hong Kong. The patrol mission involved three helicopters and two Type 056 corvettes, the Qinzhou and the Huizhou, the Defense Ministry reported.
Jim Dean, managing editor at Veterans today, told RT he believes Washington is getting embroiled in a territorial dispute it has no part in as part of a PR game against China.
“This is a part of a sparring campaign that I think is going to go on for quite a while,” Dean said, adding that the latest incident, which comes on the heels of a US arms deal with Taiwan, is “a part of turning the screws” by the US administration.
“It [territorial dispute] really does not involve the United States, because it’s on the other side of the world, but the US likes to show the flag,”Dean noted, arguing that the US is inflaming tensions there “just to get the publicity that we can do it and we will continue doing it.”
The incident might be also a deliberate move intended to provoke China into deploying more forces in the South China Sea, in order to justify a US response, according to Dean.
“We really have some theater going on with this, and this all is going to go on for some time,” he said.
‘Not f**ing okay’: Swedish music festival canceled after spate of rape cases
Swedish police have confirmed they are investigating four potential rapes and some 22 counts of molestation reported on the grounds of the three-day musical festival, which concluded July 1 near the southern Swedish town of Norrkoping.
A teenage girl was reportedly sexually assaulted at the festival during a concert by local musician Håkan Hellström on Friday, police said Saturday, adding that they are also looking into multiple reports of molestation.
As news of the incident hit the headlines, the company in charge of the festival, FKP Scorpio, issued a statement, denouncing the violence and announcing that the event was being canceled next year.
“Words cannot describe how incredibly sad we are about this, and we most seriously regret and condemn this. This is not f**ing okay. We do not accept this at our festival,” the statement reads.
Saying that they have done “everything in our power,” to prevent sexual violence at the festival, the organizers argued that the problem itself goes far beyond Bråvalla and music festivals in general, and concerns Sweden as a whole.
“It is a huge social problem that affects every part of our society. Absolutely not just festivals. There are about a hundred rapes every day in Sweden and it is a challenge that society has to face,” the organizers said.
The company denied media reports that event’s cancellation was triggered by financial losses it suffered last year and not security or ethical concerns.
“Obviously, it’s not good financially to run a festival associated so strongly with violence and insecurity. But to say that we use violence as an excuse for not doing it next year is remarkable and cynical speculation,” the company said in a press release, cited by Expressen.
Sex crime allegations, meanwhile, continued to pile up, with police announcing Sunday that another three women had reported incidents to law enforcement.
A woman told officers she had been attacked by two men on a road leading from the festival camp and gang raped on Saturday night, according to police spokesman Thomas Agnevik, cited by Expressen.
Another alleged victim said she was also raped at the time the Håkan Hellström concert was taking place at the festival. Police believe there is no link between her case and that of the first victim, save from the same time and venue.
In a fourth case, a woman complained to police of a consensual sexual encounter going horribly wrong, when a male partner refused to stop despite her pleas.
So far, police have not identified suspects in any of the cases, but commended the decision by the organizers to put the event on hold.
“It is my personal opinion that if you cannot carry out festival without there being a crime victim, there should not be a festival,” Agnevik, the police spokesman, told Expressen.
Commenting on the spate of violence at the festival, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven called the reported crimes “disgusting acts”that must be stopped.
Jan Björklund, leader of Sweden’s Liberal People’s Party, also condemned the attacks, describing them as “atrocious events.”
“Festivals should be a place of joy – for everyone. It will require strong action from the community, organizers, police, parents and from us if we are to put an end to sexual violence against women,” he said on Sunday.
The festival had attracted notoriety for its history of rape incidents. Last year, it courted controversy after five rapes and a number of assault and groping incidents were reported to police.