US warships again challenge China's claims in South China Sea

President Donald Trump gestures near Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at the White House

President Donald Trump gestures near Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at the White House

The two sides are trying to hammer out a deal ahead of a March 1 deadline when USA tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports are scheduled to increase to 25 percent from 10 percent.

China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes in the South China Sea over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying claimed on Monday the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy warned Spruance and Preble against approaching territory claimed by China.

Beijing accused the USA of entering Chinese waters without permission and engaging in provocations that threaten China's sovereignty.

Trade talks between the US and China have resumed and China is reportedly upbeat.

Well Mark... the USS Spruance and USS Preble conducted what the U.S. Navy called a freedom of navigation operation within 22 kilometers of the Spratly Islands on Monday.

Beijing asserts almost all of the South China Sea as its territorial waters, while Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts.

Monday's operation was the second in the South China Sea reported by the US Navy this year.

Monday's operation was carried out "to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by global law", Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the US Navy's 7th Fleet, said.

The United Kingdom will deploy its new aircraft carrier, loaded with two squadrons of F-35 aircraft into the politically-fraught South China Sea.

China then accused the United States of trespassing, and Chinese media announced it had deployed a "far-reaching anti-ship ballistic missile", the DF-26, that was "capable of targeting medium and large ships".

In late September, the USS Decatur also sailed within 22kms of Gaven and Johnson reefs in the Spratly Islands as part of a similar freedom of navigation operation.

'The relevant actions of the United States warships violated Chinese sovereignty, and undermined peace, security, and order in the relevant sea areas, ' Hua said.

In mid-January, US and British warships conducted their first joint military exercises in the South China Sea since Beijing began building bases and air strips on 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.

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