US warships sail near South China Sea islands claimed by Beijing

US warships sail near South China Sea islands claimed by Beijing

US warships sail near South China Sea islands claimed by Beijing

The Chinese confronted the two ships - the Higgins destroyer and the Antietam cruiser - and ordered them to leave as they sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands, an archipelago in the waters over which Beijing claims total sovereignty.

While this operation had been planned months in advance, and similar operations have become routine, it comes at a particularly sensitive time and just days after the Pentagon uninvited China from a major US -hosted naval drill.

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.

Beijing says aircraft carriers are needed to protect its coastline and trade routes, although they are also seen as backing up Beijing's claims to self-governing Taiwan and the South China Sea.

The U.S. military does not comment on the specifics of what it calls "freedom of navigation" exercises meant to assert the Navy's right to sail and operate in any zone deemed legal under worldwide law.

The chief spokesman for China's Ministry of National Defense, Senior Col. Wu Qian, said the American military had "seriously violated China's sovereignty, [and] undermined strategic mutual trust".

The Vietnamese government protested China's move as a violation of its sovereign claim to the islands-exactly the language used by China to protest USA actions today after sending its own warships to warn away the Americans.

More news: Who won 'American Idol'? Winner revealed during 2-hour music-filled finale

"China will continue to take all necessary measures to defend the country's sovereignty and security", it added, without elaborating.

The operation was conducted just over a week after Beijing flew nuclear-capable bombers to a disputed island in a bold powerplay to show its military might and boost its territorial claims in the area.

'We have disinvited the PLA Navy from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific Exercise.

It added that its presence in the South China Sea - which is disputed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam - was legitimate, and accused the U.S. of holding Cold War-style suspicions.

China has been deploying serious military power to the region - including constructing manmade islands bristling with missiles.

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

Related news