USA warships 'seriously infringed' on China - Beijing military chiefs

USA warships 'seriously infringed' on China - Beijing military chiefs

China says it dispatched warships to identify and warn off a pair of U.S. Navy vessels sailing near one of its island claims in the South China Sea.

The Higgins - a guided-missile destroyer - and the Antietam - a guided-missile cruiser - were sent as part of what has been seen as an attempt by Washington to counter efforts by Beijing to limit freedom of navigation in its waters.

The ministry said late Sunday that the Chinese military had warned the two US warships to leave after they entered waters near the contested Paracel Islands in the strategic waterway.

It also said it had deployed ships and aircraft to warn the U.S. warships to leave, saying they had entered the country's territorial waters without permission.

In another statement by China's Foreign Ministry, it told the U.S. to stop such military exercises.

"The U.S. has seriously violated China's sovereignty, undermined strategic mutual trust, and undermined peace and security in the South China Sea", Wu added.

The US military did not immediately comment on the operation, but said US forces operate in the region on a daily basis, Reuters said.

The US military conducts what it calls "freedom of navigation" voyages in the South China Sea to contest Beijing's assertion of territorial rights in the area, although the US has no claims of its own in the disputed region.

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This is a weekly look at the latest developments in the South China Sea, the location of several territorial conflicts that have raised tensions in the region.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have conflicting claims in the area.

Critics of the operations, known as a "freedom of navigation", have said that they have little impact on Chinese behavior and are largely symbolic.

Columnist Federico Pascual Jr. said, "A confident China has stepped up its setting up of military installations on artificial islands built in the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone with Duterte looking the other way".

China earlier this month landed bomber aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons on its main base at Woody Island in the Paracels.

It also follows the United States' decision to disinvite the Chinese People's Liberation Army-Navy from the 2018 iteration of the Rim of the Pacific exercise.

China's Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi said the U.S. decision to exclude it from RIMPAC was 'very non-constructive'.

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he was not satisfied with talks aimed at averting a trade war with China.

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