Guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG-52) conducted a freedom of navigation operation through the Spratly Island chain in the South China Sea, U.S. 7th Fleet announced on Wednesday.
According to a statement from the Navy, the cruiser tested excessive maritime claims of China, Vietnam and Taiwan. All three countries have overlapping claims in the contested island chain.
Bunker Hill, without prior notification, conducted an innocent passage past an unspecified feature in the Spratly chain. Under international maritime law, a warship can move through a country’s territorial sea without notification as long as it doesn’t conduct any military operations.
“Unlawful and sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea pose a serious threat to the freedom of the seas, including the freedoms of navigation and overflight and the right of innocent passage of all ships,” read the statement from U.S. 7th Fleet.
“This freedom of navigation operation upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea recognized in international law by challenging the restrictions on innocent passage imposed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has enraged China after backing calls for a global investigation into the origins of the coronavirus outbreak.
Morrison on Wednesday defended his calls for an investigation into how the pandemic started, describing it a “very reasonable and sensible course of action.”
“This is a virus that has taken more than 200,000 lives across the world,” Morrison told reporters in Australia’s capital, Canberra. “It has shut down the global economy. The implications and impacts of this are extraordinary.”
He added: “Now, it would seem entirely reasonable and sensible that the world would want to have an independent assessment of how this all occurred, so we can learn the lessons and prevent it from happening again.”