U.S. warships sail near South China Sea islands claimed by Beijing

US sends warships near disputed island in South China Sea report

A USA defense official said the two warships - USS Antietam and USS Higgins - had been conducting a "freedom of navigation" operation near the Paracel Islands.

The move "contravened Chinese and relevant worldwide law, seriously infringed upon Chinese sovereignty (and) harmed strategic mutual trust between the two militaries", it said.

China earlier this month landed bomber aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons on its main base at Woody Island in the Paracels.

In the Paracel Islands, U.S. freedom of navigation operations have been created to protest China's prior notification requirements for innocent passage transits with 12 nautical miles of features and Beijing's straight baselines around the island group, which are illegal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

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The US military conducts what it calls "freedom of navigation" voyages in the South China Sea to contest Beijing's assertion of territorial rights in the area, although the US has no claims of its own in the disputed region.

The move signals United States rejection of China's claims of political control in the South China Sea.

"We conduct routine and regular Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs), as we have done in the past and will continue to do in the future", U.S. Pacific Fleet said in a statement.

Critics of the operations, known as a "freedom of navigation", have said that they have little impact on Chinese behavior and are largely symbolic.

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Logan added that Xi had broken a promise he made to the worldwide community that China would not militarise the Spratly Islands. Davidson suggested, the United States would be unable to reverse that dominion short of a almost unthinkable war.

The Paracel islands are part of a territorial dispute that China has with neighbouring countries.

The U.S. ships were performing so-called "freedom of navigation operations" meant to exercise the U.S. right to navigate the waters under worldwide law, as China's claims over the South China Sea aren't internationally recognized.

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.

US freedom of navigation operations are created to protest maritime claims that are excessive under worldwide law.

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In a separate statement, China's Foreign Ministry urged the United States to stop such actions.

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