(NewsNation) — The U.S. Navy on Wednesday sailed a destroyer close to China-controlled islands in the South China Sea in what Washington said was a patrol aimed at asserting freedom of navigation through the strategic seaway.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold sailed past the Paracel Islands and continued thereafter with operations in the South China Sea.
The operation “upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea,” the 7th Fleet said in a news release.
In response to the Benfold’s passage, China’s Southern Theater Command tracked the vessel’s movements and ordered it to leave the area, and said the U.S. is a “security risk maker in the South China Sea” adding the U.S. military has ‘seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security.
“Our troops in the military area are on high alert at all times to safeguard national sovereignty, security, and peace and stability in the South China Sea,” the ministry said.
So, who’s right here — did the USS Benfold have the right to be there, or was this Chinese territory?
Leland Vittert, host of NewsNation’s “On Balance with Leland Vittert,” says it depends on who you ask, as China has created islands out of essentially nothing to be able to claim it as land to be able to claim parts of the South China Sea around them as their territory.
“Imagine if you’re at home right now looking outside at your sidewalk, and your neighbor starts building into the sidewalk out front of his house, and he puts up a couple of forts, and then he puts up a barbed wire, and then he puts up a checkpoint on and on and on. You’d say that sidewalk is rightfully for everyone to use to be able to walk to the store, my kids to walk to school, or whatever it is. And if the neighbor keeps putting up these obstructions, I’m gonna keep walking on the sidewalk to prove that it is indeed everybody’s land to walk across. That’s essentially what the United States is doing here, is they’re saying to the Chinese, you can build whatever you want on the sides of the sidewalk, you can claim the sidewalk is your own territory, but it’s not. It’s the community’s territory. It’s the world’s territory, if you will,” Vittert explained.