United States warships 'seriously infringed' on China - Beijing military chiefs

China's foreign ministry urged the United States to stop such actions

USA warships on Sunday cruised by two disputed islands in the South China Sea in a planned exercise, Reuters reported.

According to USA officials, this time, the Higgins guided-missile destroyer and the Antietam, a guided-missile cruiser, came within 12 nautical miles of the disputed Paracel Islands.

The Higgins guided-missile destroyer and the Antietam, a guided-missile cruiser, carried out manoeuvering operations near Tree, Lincoln, Triton and Woody islands in the Paracels, one of the officials said.

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

It also said it had deployed ships and aircraft to warn the USA warships to leave, saying they had entered the country's territorial waters without permission.

The Chinese Defense Ministry accused the USA of "provocation" and infringing upon China's sovereignty by conducting operations near the disputed Paracel Islands.

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 global law.

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In recent months, China has appeared more determined to defend its claims in the South China Sea, reinforcing and arming its bases in the Paracel Islands and farther south in the Spratly Islands, even though the various islands, reefs, shoals and other outcroppings are also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan and others.

China's island-building programme in the South China Sea has sparked concern around the region and in Washington about Chinese intentions. The island has hosted multi-role fighters, surface-to-air missiles, and anti-ship cruise missiles.

It was the latter act that caused Defense Secretary James Mattis to withdraw China's invitation to the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises.

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

American warships will continue to be deployed in the region "on an everyday basis", Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Logan told the Russian media on Sunday.

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

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

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