Indian ship warned “in Chinese waters”

NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian officials say a naval vessel on a trip to Vietnam was warned by China that it was allegedly violating Chinese waters.

India’s foreign ministry said Thursday the INS Airavat was sailing about 45 nautical miles off the coast of Vietnam on July 22 when a caller identifying himself as the Chinese navy made radio contact and told the Indian vessel: “You are entering Chinese waters.”

via AP Newswire | Stars and Stripes.

China has long considered all the the South China Sea to be territorial waters. International law generally recognized a 12 mile limit from the shoreline for territorial waters, though some bays and sounds are recognized as territorial waters even though parts may be more than 12 miles from shore.

But the South China Sea is another matter entirely. No other nation recognizes China’s claim, and the US regularly schedules “freedom of navigation” exercises to show that we still consider it international waters.

The difference is, China’s greatly expanded naval power gives it the ability to press harder and harder to exclude other nations from these waters.

The Chinese are hardly likely to start a shooting war over a US vessel in the South China Sea, but they have long harassed US vessels and aircraft in these waters, as well as those of other nations. Some smaller nations may decide that the risk of an incident is too high to justify sailing in those waters, and cede de facto control to China.