Published: Tue, February 12, 2019
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

China Expresses ‘Strong Dissatisfaction’ After U.S. Warships Sail near Spratly Islands

China Expresses ‘Strong Dissatisfaction’ After U.S. Warships Sail near Spratly Islands

If a deal wasn't made by that date, the White House has said it will raise the tariff rate on more than $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25% from their current level of 10%.

China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes in the South China Sea over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea and frequently criticises the USA and its allies over naval operations near Chinese-occupied islands.

At the start of next month, USA tariffs on $200billion (£155billion) worth of Chinese imports are set to more than double from 10% to 25%.

The US is "determined to stir up trouble in the South China Sea, create tension and undermine peace", Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a press briefing.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the two guided-missile destroyers travelled within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands.

The goal was "to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways", as well as to show that the U.S. "will fly, sail, and operate wherever worldwide law allows", Cmdr.

China has laid claim to most of the South China Sea, which is used by several countries, including the US, as an important shipping lane.

'The relevant actions of the USA warships violated Chinese sovereignty, and undermined peace, security, and order in the relevant sea areas, ' Hua said.

The operation was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing's efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, where Chinese, Japanese and some South-east Asian navies operate.

China says the bases are essential for self-defense and accused the United States of ramping up tensions in the region by sending battleships and warplanes close to the disputed islands. The Navy has carried out several FONOPS in the South China Sea in recent years, where China has built artificial islands and air strips and installed other military capabilities.

During a South China Sea freedom-of-navigation operation in September, a Chinese destroyer challenged a US vessel to a showdown, forcing the US Navy ship off course and risking a deadly collision.

Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam also have territorial claims in the region.

Top US officials have attacked China for everything from human rights abuses to cyber espionage in America.

The U.S. and China had set a deadline of March 1 for an agreement on trade between the world's two largest economies.

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