Tensions rise as U.S. and Chinese military vessels face off near a highly disputed island in the South China Sea. The American destroyer Uss Stethem was deployed near Triton island only to be intercepted by military vessels and jet fighters from china.

Why did the USS Stethem sail close to the island?

The tension erupted when the American destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles from Triton Island on Sunday. This is the second time a U.S. vessel deliberately sailed through the highly contested South China Sea to enforce U.N. international laws, which effectively makes a large portion of the South China Sea as international waters.

The United States is conducting "Freedom of Navigation" operations in these waters to enforce the laws ratified by the U.N. which Beijing doesn't acknowledge. The USS Stethem sailed near Triton Island on the basis of "innocent passage."

Innocent passage is a concept included in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS, that states foreign vessels, military or civilian, may enter territorial waters but under strict restrictions. The U.S. warship deployment used the innocent passage clause to legally project American protest against China's overreaching claims in the South China Sea.

What is the reaction of China?

Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said that the operation done by the United States in the South China Sea is "trespassing." He added that Beijing is displeased by the behavior of the United States, especially in creating tension in their territorial waters.

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As a response to the USS Stethem, China deployed a host of military vessels and aircraft to intercept the American destroyer. Lu Kang stated that Beijing demands the U.S. to immediately halt its "provocations" and to cease violating China's sovereignty. And that China will continue to protect its national security against unwarranted actions from the United States.

China is in the midst of a massive modernization of its military. Complete overhauls of equipment, doctrine, and weapons are underway, especially due to their perceived threat coming from the United States.

How will such tensions affect Asian peace?

Peace in the Asia region is on the brink of being disrupted due to the diplomatic tension between China and the United States. Last week, the U.S. revealed plans on improving Taiwan's military with a $4 billion arms deal. China was furious about the plan calling it "unacceptable." especially as Beijing continually treats Taiwan as a province and not a sovereign nation.

As the United States continues to enforce its rights on Asian waters, China will react more drastically and militarily. If the trend continues, a war between China and the United States may spark on the calm waters of the South China Sea.