USA warships again challenge China's claims in South China Sea

China voiced its "strong dissatisfaction" with the United States on Monday, after Washington sent two warships to disputed waters near islands in South China Sea as negotiators prepared to resume talks on averting an all-out trade war between the two countries.

Navy spokesman Commander Clay Doss told USA media: "All operations are designed in accordance with worldwide law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever global law allows". They will try to reach a trade deal before a March 1 deadline after which the U.S. has threatened to increase tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese imports and risk retaliatory action from China.

Fears have grown in recent months that the US-China trade dispute is just one element in a bilateral relationship that is fast cooling across the board, with top US administration officials sharply criticising Beijing for everything from human rights abuses to cyber espionage in the US.

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 South-east Asian navies operate.

"All operations are designed in accordance with worldwide law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever global law allows", Doss said, adding "that is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe". China claims a large part of the South China Sea, and has built artificial islands and air bases there, prompting concern around the region and in Washington.

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For its part, China has defended the construction of such centres as self-defence.

Beijing lays claim to most of the energy-rich South China Sea, overlapping with several of its neighbours, including Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, and Taiwan.

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

Brit ministers have also claimed the United Kingdom should fight back more against China.

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