Beijing military chiefs: U.S. warships 'seriously infringed' on China

According to Reuters, which first reported on the operation, a U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, USS Higgins, and a cruiser, USS Antietam, sailed within 12 nautical miles of islands controlled by China in the disputed Paracel Islands.

USA military vessels carried out maneuvering operations near Tree, Lincoln, Triton and Woody islands in the Paracels, one of the officials said.

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 USA -hosted naval drill.

China's island-building programme in the South China Sea has sparked concern around the region and in Washington about Chinese intentions.

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 spokesman also called the USA move "provocative and arbitrary", which he said "undermined strategic mutual trust between the two militaries".

In a separate statement, China's foreign ministry urged Washington to stop such actions.

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China said "mutual trust between the two militaries" had been "harmed" as a result, and that it would "continue to take all necessary measures to defend the country's sovereignty and security".

The confrontation occurred near the disputed Paracel Islands, which are claimed by China and its neighbors, amid escalating military tension between the United States and China and planning for an on again-off again summit over North Korea's nuclear arsenal.

The Pentagon cited strong evidence that China has deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile systems and electronic jammers to contested areas in the Spratly Islands.

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

State-run news agency Xinhua said the two vessels were "expelled" from the waters.

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

  • Sonia Alvarado