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China slams United States warships in South China Sea as 'a provocation'
29 May 2018, 12:28 | Bernice Figueroa
US sends warships near disputed island in South China Sea: report | TheHill
The tensions between China and the U.S. over maneuvers in the South China Sea escalated last week, when the Pentagon revoked the Chinese navy's invitation to participate in the RIMPAC 2018 naval drills, accusing Beijing of "militarizing" the region.
The ministry said the Chinese military issued warnings to guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam and the USS Higgins to leave the waters after they "arbitrarily entered" the contested Paracel Islands in the waterway "without permission of the Chinese government".
They carried out maneuvering-operations near Tree, Triton and Woody islands.
The chief spokesman for China's Ministry of National Defense, Senior Col. Wu Qian, said the American military had "seriously violated China's sovereignty, [and] undermined strategic mutual trust".
China's Ministry of Defense said in a statement that the entry of the US warships was not permitted, and they have been warned to leave.
In a separate statement, China's Foreign Ministry urged the United States to stop such actions.
'China will continue to take all necessary measures to defend the country's sovereignty and security, ' it added, without elaborating.
The U.S. warships were carrying out "freedom of navigation" operations, also called FONOPS, which the Navy says are a means to challenge excessive maritime claims and uphold rights to use of the sea under worldwide law.
The move has been conducted several times in the past three years in defiance of China's claims it owns the disputed territory.
The move prompted immediate criticism from the USA, which last week pulled its invitation to China to join maritime exercises in the Pacific because of Beijing's "continued militarisation" of the South China Sea.
Satellite photographs taken on May 12 showed China appeared to have deployed truck-mounted surface-to-air missiles or anti-ship cruise missiles at Woody Island.
'We have disinvited the PLA Navy from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific Exercise.
Chinese officials have accused Washington of viewing their country in suspicious, "Cold War" terms.
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