China protests after U.S. warship sails near South China Sea

US Destroyer Sails Near Artificial Chinese Island in South China Sea

According to unnamed USA officials, the USS John S McCain sailed close to Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, the string of islets where China is building new facilities, paving the way for Beijing to deploy an array of military assets in the region.

Thursday's operation, reported by Reuters, was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing's efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, and comes as Trump is seeking China's cooperation to rein in North Korea.

In July, the USS Stethem, a guided-missile destroyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the South China Sea for the second "fonop".

Chinese media have recently been highly critical of US responses to North Korea and said that threats will accomplish little with the Kim regime, according to The Guardian.

"China holds indisputable sovereignty over Nansha Islands and surrounding waters", the defense ministry stated.

U.S. Pacific Fleet spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr.

The United States has said that it would like to see more worldwide participation in freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.

The Trump administration has vowed to conduct more robust South China Sea operations.

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The South China Sea is crucial for Chinese foreign trade, serving as a major transportation route for minerals, energy and Chinese-made goods.

Beijing is tangled in a web of territorial disputes in the areas with five regional nations - Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Sailing within those 12 miles is meant to show that the United States does not recognize territorial claims there.

The Pentagon declined to provide any details but said that all operations are conducted in accordance with worldwide law. It is also believed to be rich in natural resources, including oil.

"The US provocation also forced the Chinese side to take measures to further enhance the national defense capability", the ministry added.

The new development comes amid Washington's attempts to get Beijing on board for more worldwide pressure on North Korea over its development of nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles.

"The US destroyer's actions have violated Chinese and worldwide laws, as well as severely harmed China's sovereignty and security", it said.

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