US warship sails near islands claimed by China, angering Beijing: report

US warship sails near islands claimed by China, angering Beijing: report
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A U.S. Navy destroyer reportedly sailed near Chinese-claimed islands in the South China Sea on Tuesday.

Three U.S. military officials told Reuters the USS Chafee, a guided-missile destroyer, carried out normal maneuvering operations to challenge “excessive maritime claims” in the Paracel archipelago, which is claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan.

China’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday that it sent a warship, two fighter jets and a helicopter to warn the U.S. destroyer away, calling the move a “provocation.”

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“We demand the U.S. side earnestly take steps to correct its mistakes,” the ministry said in a statement.

The United States does not recognize China’s sovereignty claim over the islands and sees it as an effort to limit freedom of navigation. In the last year, the Navy has conducted several operations to challenge Beijing’s stance.

China, in turn, has accused the United States of illegally trespassing into what it sees as its territorial waters.

Following Tuesday’s event, the ministry said the U.S. had “infringed upon China's sovereignty and security, harmed mutual trust between the two armies as well as regional stability.”

It added that it would further strengthen its naval and air defenses.

The incident comes as U.S. officials are pressing China to use more economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea to prevent further military escalation in the region.

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThreatening foreign states with sanctions can backfire Overnight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Amazon to challenge Pentagon's 'war cloud' decision in federal court MORE said in June he had spoken to Chinese officials about Beijing's claims in the region.

--This report was updated at 11:44 a.m.