The US military said one of its warships sailed near the disputed Scarborough Shoal claimed by China in the South China Sea on Sunday, angering Beijing at a time of tense ties between the world’s two biggest economies.
The busy waterway is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the US-China relationship, which include a trade war, US sanctions and Taiwan.
China struck a more aggressive tone in its trade war with the United States on Friday.
The tough talk capped a week that saw China unveil new retaliatory tariffs in response to a US decision to raise its levies on $200 billion of Chinese imports to 25% from 10%.
The US destroyer Preble carried out the operation, a US military spokesman told Reuters. “Preble sailed within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough Reef in order to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law,” said Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the Seventh Fleet.
Speaking in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the ship had entered waters near the shoal without China’s permission, and the Chinese navy had warned it to leave.
“We strongly urge the United States to immediately stop such provocative actions so as not to undermine Sino-US relations and regional peace and stability.”