Beijing opposes U.S. provocation in China’s territorial waters - spokesperson

Tree Island is one of the main islands of the Paracel Islands group in the South China Sea

The U.S. military has a long-standing position that its activities are completed all through the world, incorporating into regions asserted by partners, and that they are separate from political contemplations.

The US Navy's freedom of navigation patrol came days after the US disinvited China from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific Exercise, the world's largest global maritime warfare exercise.

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

The Pentagon cited strong evidence that China has deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile systems and electronic jammers to contested areas in the Spratly Islands. Neither China's foreign nor defence ministries immediately responded to a request for comment.

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

Ian Storey, senior fellow at the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute, told CNN it was the first time under the Obama and Trump administrations that more than one USA ship had been involved in such an operation.

The Chinese navy ordered them to leave and expelled them from the area, according to the state news agency Xinhua.

China, argues that passage within 12 nautical miles constitutes a violation of the country's territory under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The Ministry of Defense also responded to the provocation. "The Chinese army is determined to strengthen the preparations for sea and air combat readiness, raise the level of defence, defend national sovereignty and security and maintain the determination of regional peace and stability", Wu said. "When we declassify all of these, once we have achieved our purposes in the future, you will see that the DFA has not fallen short in filing whatever diplomatic action, note verbale, verbal protest".

China on Sunday voiced strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to two US warships trespassing into China's territorial waters off the Xisha Islands.

This is a weekly look at the latest developments in the South China Sea, the location of several territorial conflicts that have raised tensions in the region.

Critics say Duterte's approach has emboldened China, which has been increasingly assertive in the potentially oil- and gas-rich waterway that's also claimed entirely or in part by Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei. About $5 trillion in worldwide shipping passes through the area every year.

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