China strongly dissatisfied by US warships entering South China Sea

Employees of the Tokyo Stock Exchange work at the bourse in Tokyo Japan. Issei Kato Reuters  File

Hua said that China expressed firm opposition and dissatisfaction at the move.

A U.S. official said the warships had approached the islands on Monday to counter Chinese claims of domination over the entire South China Sea.

But Hua slammed the USA, arguing that "China has indisputable sovereignty over islands in the South China Sea, including the Second Thomas Shoal, Mischief Reef, and the adjacent waters".

"The relevant actions of the United States warships violated Chinese sovereignty and undermined peace, security, and order in the relevant sea areas. That is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe", he said.

Aerial view on the The Spratly Islands, one of the major archipelagos in the South China Sea.

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Two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers - the USS Spruance and the USS Preble - conducted a freedom-of-navigation operation on Monday, sailing within 12 nautical miles of Chinese outposts in the contested Spratly Islands.

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". The deployment is seen as the latest attempt by Washington to stand up to what it believes are attempts by Beijing to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, where Chinese, Japanese and other Southeast Asian navies operate. The official said Monday's operation focused on Mischief Reef, a location claimed by China, Vietnam and the Philippines. In January, the destroyer USS McCampbell challenged China's claims to the Paracel Islands. In September, a Chinese warship came within just 45 yards of a US destroyer, raising concerns about the possibility of tensions boiling over into conflict. The operation was conducted to demonstrate that the U.S.

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.

It has claimed the United States 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 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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