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

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The relevant action by the US side infringed upon China's sovereignty, and undermined the peace, security, and order of the relevant waters, Hua said, adding that China will continue to take necessary measures to safeguard itself.

A pair of Navy guided-missile destroyers have sailed within a dozen nautical miles of disputed islands China is believed to have militarized - a move that has angered some in Beijing.

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.

She demanded the U.S. "immediately stop its provocative actions" after the two destroyers conducted what Washington called "freedom of navigation" exercises in the area.

China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea, as do several of its neighbors, including the Philippines, Vietnam, and Taiwan.

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

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

The report said two guided-missile destroyers passed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, a maneuver the USA uses to assert that a waterway is free to global transit.

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.

Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan all have competing claims for territory in the region. The operation was conducted to demonstrate that the U.S.

During a South China Sea freedom-of-navigation operation in September, a Chinese destroyer challenged a US vessel to a showdown, forcing the US Navy ship off course and risking a deadly collision.

In mid-January, US and British warships conducted their first joint military exercises in the South China Sea since Beijing began building bases and air strips on islands.

China says the bases are essential for self-defense and accused the U.S. of ramping up tensions in the region by sending battleships and warplanes close to the disputed islands.

Observers fear the trade dispute is just one element in the deteriorating relationship between the world's two top economies with top White House officials sharply criticising Beijing for everything from human rights abuses to cyber-warfare.

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