USA warships again challenge Beijing's claims in South China Sea

An official said the two US guided-missile destroyers traveled within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands

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British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson confirmed in a speech Monday morning that the Royal Navy's HMS Queen Elizabeth will sail into waters that are the subject of dispute between China and other nations.

The United Kingdom announced Monday that it will send a new aircraft carrier and two squadrons of F-35 fighter jets to the South China Sea as part of a mixed UK/US deployment.

Beijing accused the United States of entering Chinese waters without permission and engaging in provocations that threaten China's sovereignty. A spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry, Hua Chunying, accused the U.S. of entering Chinese waters without permission and engaging in provocations that threaten China's sovereignty, the South China Morning Post reported.

Well Mark... the USS Spruance and USS Preble conducted what the U.S. Navy called a freedom of navigation operation within 22 kilometers of the Spratly Islands on Monday.

Beijing and Washington remain at loggerheads over United States allegations for China's militarisation of the South China Sea by building military installations on artificial islands and reefs.

"All operations are designed in accordance with worldwide law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever global law allows", Doss added, arguing "that is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe".

The operation was carried out "to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by global law", Cmdr.

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Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan have competing claims in the region. In January, the destroyer USS McCampbell sailed within 22kms of the Paracel Islands.

Communist superpower China claims ownership over nearly all of the South China Sea - frequently slamming the United States and its allies for naval operations in the territory.

Doss added: "We conduct routine and regular Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPS), as we have done in the past and will continue to in the future".

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.

China's foreign ministry issued an angry response.

Over the last five years China has rapidly built artificial islands housing significant military infrastructure on what had been low-lying reefs.

It has claimed the United States is responsible for ratcheting up war fears in the region by sending warships and military planes close to territory China believes it is entitled to.

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