China strongly dissatisfied by USA warships entering South China Sea

Man sits in front of an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Hangzhou

Two U.S. warships have sailed close to islands claimed by China in the disputed South China Sea - a move that could negatively impact on-going trade talks between the two nations.

Pentagon officials said two guided-missile destroyers had travelled within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the fiercely disputed Spratly Islands.

China accused the US of "tricks" as two American warships sailed through waters claimed by Beijing on the eve of high-level trade talks.

China firmly opposed the relevant action and urged the U.S.to immediately stop its provocations, Hua stressed.

She urged the USA to cease the "provocative actions". "The Chinese side expresses strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition".

"China has indisputable sovereignty over islands in the South China Sea, including the Second Thomas Shoal, Mischief Reef, and the adjacent waters", she insisted.

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Navy spokesman Commander Clay Doss told U.S. media: "All operations are designed in accordance with global law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever worldwide law allows".

The operation was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing's efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, where Chinese, Japanese and some Southeast Asian navies operate. "That is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe", he said. In January, the destroyer USS McCampbell challenged China's claims to the Paracel Islands.

China's claims to the South China Sea were largely discredited by an worldwide arbitration tribunal three years ago. In September, a Chinese warship came within just 45 yards of a USA destroyer, raising concerns about the possibility of tensions boiling over into conflict. The Navy has carried out several FONOPS in the South China Sea in recent years, where China has built artificial islands and air strips and installed other military capabilities.

China says the construction is necessary for defence, and it was the U.S. that was responsible for tensions by sending warships and military planes close to islands Beijing claims.

"Relevant activities of the USA warships violated China's sovereignty and damaged peace, security and good order in relevant waters".

The two countries are also at odds over regional security, including Washington's overtures to the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own.

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