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Claim: Three Chinese warships fired warning shots at the USS Benfold (DDG-65) and USS Sirocco (PC-6), which were sailing near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, according to a CNN report.
Why we fact-checked this: The YouTube video containing the claim has 15,455 views as of writing.
What the video said: The title of the YouTube video says: “War begins! China warships fired on 2 US warships as sail near Spratly Islands.”
The video cites a CNN report titled, “China warships fired on US warships sailing near Spratly Islands,” which was supposedly written by CNN senior global military affairs writer Brad Lendon.
The video claims that Chinese ships fired warning shots at the USS Benfold and USS Sirocco as the US vessels were conducting freedom of navigation operations in the disputed region. The video says the US ships didn’t return fire and only issued radio warnings to the Chinese vessels.
Fake report: The CNN report cited in the video is fake. Using Advanced Google search, Rappler found no CNN articles bearing the claim. There were also no reports from other news sources confirming that such an incident occurred.
Lendon’s author page on the CNN website shows that the latest story he wrote about the South China Sea was on August 12 related to the water cannon incident between China and the Philippines titled, “‘Little blue men’: Is a militia Beijing says doesn’t exist causing trouble in the South China Sea?”
Not in South China Sea: The US ships mentioned in the video are currently not sailing in or near the South China Sea. The USS Benfold is in the North Pacific, the US Pacific Fleet said in a post dated August 4.
Meanwhile, the other ship mentioned in the video, the USS Sirocco, was decommissioned and transferred to the Egyptian Navy in March 2023, according to a US Naval Forces Central Command press release.
Recent incidents of the two ships: USS Benfold’s most recent incident in the South China Sea happened in July 2022, when it was driven away by a Chinese ship as it conducted a freedom of navigation operation, a CNN report said. The same report said that the Chinese Navy followed the US guided-missile destroyer, but no mention of a warning shot was made in the article.
Before being decommissioned, the USS Sirocco was stationed in Bahrain and not in the South China Sea. The patrol vessel was previously involved in an incident with an Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboat in June 2022, according to the Associated Press.
The South China Sea has become a flashpoint in Sino-US relations as China increasingly asserts its claim over the waterway amid rival claims from neighboring countries including the Philippines. Meanwhile, the US has expressed support for the Philippines and the 2016 arbitral tribunal that favored Manila. – Lorenz Pasion/Rappler.com
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