U.S. Warships Patrolling Beijing-Claimed Waters Prompt Chinese Protest

An MH-60R Seahawk attached to the

An MH-60R Seahawk attached to the"Warbirds of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 49 flies over the guided-missile destroyers USS Spruance and USS Momsen in July 2016. (U.S. Navy

The US and its allies periodically send planes and warships near South China Sea islands and reefs claimed by Beijing to signal their right under global law to pass through the waters, invariably angering China.

She demanded the United States "immediately stop its provocative actions" after the two destroyers conducted what Washington called "freedom of navigation" exercises in the area. Hua said that China expressed firm opposition and dissatisfaction at the move.

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%.

Tensions between US President Donald Trump and China's leader Xi Jinping have escalated in recent months, costing both countries billions of dollars.

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

Another US warship, USS McCampbell, sailed within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometres) of the Paracel Islands chain - north of the Spratly Islands - on January 7 during a previous round of trade talks between the two countries. "That is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe", he said.

The US Navy sent two guided-missile destroyers to challenge China in the South China Sea, and Beijing is outraged.

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. Other regional nations-such as the Philippines and Vietnam-lay claim to part of the waterway and the USA routinely pushes back against China by sending ships to patrol the sea. China has built and militarized artificial islands in the sea in a bid to maintain its control.

China says the bases are essential for self-defense and accused the USA of ramping up tensions in the region by sending battleships and warplanes close to the disputed islands.

China has lashed out at the United States in the wake of another "freedom of navigation" exercise conducted by the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea, accusing Washington of undermining "peace" and "security".

The two countries are also at odds over regional security, including Washington's overtures to the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own.