US Navy conducting Sunday morning maneuvers in the South China Sea

US warships sail near disputed South China Sea islands – report

The ministry said late Sunday that the Chinese military had warned the two US warships to leave after they entered waters near the contested Paracel Islands in the strategic waterway.

The patrol was apparently the first time the US had sent warships two simultaneously conduct a FONOP in the area.

China's Defence Ministry expressed its anger, saying it had sent ships and aircraft to warn the US warships to leave, saying they had entered the country's territorial waters without permission.

China said "mutual trust between the two militaries" had been "harmed" as a result, and that it would "continue to take all necessary measures to defend the country's sovereignty and security".

The chief spokesman for China's Ministry of National Defense, Senior Col Wu Qian, said that the United States "gravely violated Chinese sovereignty".

The two USA warships involved on Sunday were carrying out manoeuvre known as "freedom of navigation operations".

The US military did not immediately comment on the operation, but said US forces operate in the region on a daily basis, Reuters said. "All operations are conducted in accordance with worldwide law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever global law allows".

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"All operations are conducted in accordance with worldwide law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever global law allows", Logan said in a statement as quoted by Fox News.

Beijing has built up a series of military outposts in the area as it seeks to reinforce effective control of much of the waterway.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have conflicting claims in the area. The island has hosted multi-role fighters, surface-to-air missiles, and anti-ship cruise missiles.

Called "Xisha" in Chinese, the islands have been incorporated into the southern province of Hainan and are being developed for tourism, as well as being equipped with weapon systems meant to enforce China's claim to virtually the entire South China Sea.

The move has been conducted several times in the past three years in defiance of China's claims it owns the disputed territory. Clay Doss, told the Times that similar operations have been conducted in 22 countries.

The operations "are not about any one country", he said in a statement, "nor are they about making political statements". The U.S. Department of Defense did not make any on-record statement confirming the latest reported FONOP in the Paracels.

"Sending two ships. could be part of the recent policy moves in reprisal against Chinese South China Sea activities", Koh said.

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