China angrily slams US warships in South China Sea

The USS Antietam was one of the ships to take part in the operation. File pic

Two U.S. Navy warships reportedly sailed near South China Sea islands claimed by China on Sunday, according to a report.

In a move likely to anger Beijing, the Higgins, a guided-missile destroyer, and the Antietam, a guided-missile cruiser, came within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.

U.S. military vessels carried out maneuvering operations near Tree, Lincoln, Triton and Woody islands in the Paracels, one of the officials said.

The operation also came just days after the Pentagon uninvited China from a major US-hosted naval drill.

The Rim of the Pacific exercise, known as RIMPAC and previously attended by China, was billed as the world's largest worldwide maritime exercise and held every two years in Hawaii in June and July.

China now asserts its right to the islands.

China's military took "immediate action" on Sunday against "unauthorized" sailing by USA warships in South China Sea waters claimed by Beijing.

USS Antietam and the Higgins 'seriously infringed' Chinese sovereignty. File pic
Image USS Antietam and the Higgins 'seriously infringed' Chinese sovereignty. File pic

Earlier this month, China riled Vietnam and the Philippines by landing bombers on a disputed set of islands in the South China Sea.

China's Ministry of National Defense said the United States "seriously violated China's sovereignty" and undermined peace, security and mutual trust between the two nations and their militaries.

Beijing said its ships and aircraft warned the USA ships and demanded they leave the waters.

Beijing claims all its military forces in the South China Sea are purely defensive.

China has been deploying serious military power to the region - including constructing manmade islands bristling with missiles.

It was the latter act that caused Defense Secretary James Mattis to withdraw China's invitation to the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises. China's behavior is inconsistent with the principles and purposes of the RIMPAC exercise'.

Washington has blasted Beijing's moves in the region and has been conducting FONOPs in the region.

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