Published: Tue, February 12, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

China Expresses ‘Strong Dissatisfaction’ After U.S. Warships Sail near Spratly Islands

China Expresses ‘Strong Dissatisfaction’ After U.S. Warships Sail near Spratly Islands

The destroyers' transit on Monday took place as officials in Washington and Beijing negotiated trade talks.

The operation was the second in the South China Sea reported by the US Navy this year.

China on Monday accused the United States of trying to "stir up trouble" by sending two U.S. destroyers near disputed South China Sea islands.

Officials including U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are in Beijing for another round of talks with Chinese officials including Vice Premier Liu He.

The guided-missile destroyers USS Spruance and USS Preble sailed near the Beijing-claimed Spratly Islands earlier Monday as part of what Washington calls "freedom of navigation operations", Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily press briefing.

Communist superpower China claims ownership over nearly all of the South China Sea - frequently slamming the United States and its allies for naval operations in the territory.

'Spruance and Preble sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Spratly Islands in order to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by worldwide law, ' said Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the US Navy's Seventh Fleet cited by CNN.

The operation was carried out "to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by global law", Cmdr.

The US labelled the Chinese warship's actions unsafe and unprofessional, while Beijing said the US was threatening the safety and sovereignty of China.

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China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea, as do several of its neighbors, including the Philippines, Vietnam, and Taiwan.

Freedom of navigation operations, or FONOPS, are meant to remind other countries that all nations can operate in worldwide waters.

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.

China defends its construction as necessary for self-defense and says it is the United States that is responsible for ratcheting up tensions in the region by sending warships and military planes close to islands Beijing claims.

During a South China Sea freedom-of-navigation operation in September, a Chinese destroyer challenged a US vessel to a showdown, forcing the US Navy ship off course and risking a deadly collision.

Top US officials have attacked China for everything from human rights abuses to cyber espionage in America.

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

The two countries are also at odds over regional security, including Washington's overtures to the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own.

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