China Expresses ‘Strong Dissatisfaction’ After U.S. Warships Sail near Spratly Islands

President Donald Trump gestures near Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at the White House

President Donald Trump gestures near Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at the White House

The USS McCampbell destroyer conducted a "freedom of navigation" operation within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands five weeks ago to "challenge excessive maritime claims", according to the Pacific Fleet, which Beijing also protested.

The two warships entered China's territorial seas around the Nansha Islands without permission from the Chinese government, ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily news briefing.

Two US Navy destroyers conducted a freedom-of-navigation operation in the South China Sea on Monday, challenging China's claims to the Spratly Islands.

'The relevant actions of the United States warships violated Chinese sovereignty, and undermined peace, security, and order in the relevant sea areas, ' Hua said.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet confirmed the FONOP Monday afternoon with worldwide media, stating that the operation was conducted "to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by global law". A round of talks at the end of January ended with some progress reported - but no deal and USA declarations that much more work was needed.

The spokesperson also demanded the US stop what she called its "provocative actions", adding he country will take necessary actions to protect state sovereignty.

The US is "determined to stir up trouble in the South China Sea, create tension and undermine peace", Hua said.

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The operation was the US's latest attempt to counter what it sees as China's mission to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters where Chinese, Japanese and Southeast Asian navies operated. China has built and militarized artificial islands in the sea in a bid to maintain its control.

Beijing asserts almost all of the South China Sea as its territorial waters, while Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts.

"Relevant activities of the US warships violated China's sovereignty and damaged peace, security and good order in relevant waters. That is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe", he said.

Tensions came to the fore in September, when a Chinese warship and US destroyer came within 45 yards of collision in the waters, renewing concerns about the risk of US-China confrontation.

China defends its construction as necessary for self-defence and says it is the USA that is responsible for ratcheting up tensions in the region by sending warships and military planes close to islands Beijing claims.

Top US officials have attacked China for everything from human rights abuses to cyber espionage in America.

The two countries are also at loggerheads over regional security, with the United States offering support to the island nation of Taiwan, which China also claims as its own.

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