China anger over United States 'provocation' in South China Sea

China protests against US provocation

The Chinese defence ministry has slammed the U.S. for an act of "provocation" by sending two warships to sail past islands in the South China Sea.

A US defense official said the two warships - USS Antietam and USS Higgins - had been conducting a "freedom of navigation" operation near the Paracel Islands.

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

Chinese defence chiefs have said United States warships entered the waters and did not leave when warned by Beijing's warships and aircraft.

China's foreign minister said China had a right to take whatever measures it deemed fit on its island holdings, and the defence ministry criticized the US move as "unconstructive", saying it would do nothing to change China's resolve to "play a role in maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region".

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

"US forces operate in the Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea", Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Logan said. This spring, China landed strategic bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons on the island, a symbolic display of its deterrent power, and satellite imagery showed the arrival of surface-to-air missiles this month.

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Pentagon officials have long complained that China has not been candid enough about its rapid military build-up and using South China Sea islands to gather intelligence in the region.

The move has been conducted several times in the past three years in defiance of China's claims it owns the disputed territory.

He said the Department of Foreign Affairs has not fallen short in its diplomatic actions toward China.

'It's also a decision taken lightly and is unhelpful to mutual understanding between China and the US, ' Wang said at a press conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after the two met in Washington.

Experts believe China - North Korea's largest trading partner - was behind the recent derailment of the June 12 summit between President Donald Trump and the North's leader, Kim Jong Un.

Chinese officials have accused Washington of viewing their country in suspicious, "Cold War" terms.

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