China protests U.S. ship near South China Sea island

US Navy destroyer challenges Beijing in South China Sea

"The US destroyer's actions have violated Chinese and worldwide laws, as well as severely harmed China's sovereignty and security", Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said in a statement.

The Foreign Ministry pointed out that that the so-called USA "freedom of navigation" mission was carried out without authorization from Beijing, with has "indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands (Spratley) and its surrounding waters".

To shore up its position against China, Vietnam has beefed up its naval strength and quietly fortified several of its islands in the disputed waters. The passage by the John S. McCain sent the implicit signal that the United States does not accept any territorial sea claims around Mischief Reef, regardless of who claims sovereignty.

The official said this latest freedom of navigation operation was planned in the past few weeks.

The Spratly islands are claimed or partly occupied by China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and Brunei.

This, after the Asian Maritime Transparency Institute (AMTI) in Washington D.C. published photos Wednesday showing continuing land reclamation in the South China Sea.

Thursday's freedom of navigation operation was the third of its kind carried out by the USA since President Donald Trump took office in January.

"Under the pretext of "navigation freedom", the U.S. side once again sent a military vessel into China's territorial waters off the Xisha Islands without China's approval".

"China is very displeased with this and will bring up the issue with the USA side", the ministry said.

"It would be best if this apparent evidence can be vetted for accuracy if only to prove the trust and confidence that all disputants over the territory in South China Sea.need to have in each other moving forward", said President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman.

China, which despite a pledge to the contrary, has continued to militarize the waters as it seeks to reinforce effective control of much of the waterway, through which at least $3 trillion in trade passes each year.

The Trump administration is dependent on Beijing to rein in the belligerent North Korea and have been pressing China to exert more economic and diplomatic pressure on the Kim Jong-un regime to prevent tensions from escalating further in the Korean peninsula. Nicole Schwegman said all Navy operations "are conducted in accordance with global law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever worldwide law allows".

The Center for Strategic and International Studies' Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) wrote in an analysis just after November's US presidential election that the FONOP location most directly related to enforcement of the arbitration court ruling was Mischief Reef, which was found to be a low-tide elevation that does not generate an entitlement to a territorial sea, exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.

"They called and said 'Please turn around, you are in our waters, '" he said. "The operations are conducted in accordance with worldwide law", she said.

China has urged the United States to respect its sovereignty and security interests in South China Sea.

The US does not recognise China's claims to the area.

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