U.S. destroyers sail in disputed South China Sea amid trade tensions

People walk past the entrance to a construction site in Beijing

Hua Chunying, a foreign ministry spokeswoman, said the PLA Navy warned the USS Spruance and USS Preble against approaching Chinese-claimed territory in the Spratly Islands.

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

"Such exercises have often been carried out by the U.S. Navy and have been the cause diplomatic tensions between Washington and Beijing".

China's Foreign Ministry expressed anger on Monday after two U.S. navy ships sailed near islands claimed by Beijing in the disputed South China Sea.

The operation was carried out "in order to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by global law", Cdr.

The Trump administration is demanding far-reaching changes from China to address commercial practices that it says are deeply unfair, including theft of American intellectual property and myriad barriers that United States and other foreign companies face in the Chinese domestic market. "China urges the USA to immediately stop such provocative actions and earnestly respect the efforts by regional countries to maintain the peace and stability of the South China Sea".

"Relevant activities of the US warships violated China's sovereignty and damaged peace, security and good order in relevant waters". In January, the destroyer USS McCampbell sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands.

Tensions have been high for years between Washington and Beijing in the South China Sea, with the us regularly drawing Chinese ire.

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

Washington has hit back in the past, claiming it is countering Beijing's militarisation of the South China Sea by building army installations on artificial reefs and islands. "That is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe", he said.

It comes at a time of increasing tensions between the United States and China over an ongoing trade war.

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

It has claimed the U.S. is responsible for ratcheting up war fears in the region by sending warships and military planes close to territory China believes it is entitled to.

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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