UK To Send F-35s, Aircraft Carrier to South China Sea

President Donald Trump gestures near Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at the White House

Beijing and Washington are locked in a trade war and the two sides are trying to hammer out a deal ahead of a March 1 deadline when U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports are scheduled to increase to 25 per cent from 10 per cent.

Aerial view on the The Spratly Islands, one of the major archipelagos in the South China Sea.

China's Foreign Ministry expressed anger on Monday after two U.S. navy ships sailed near islands claimed by Beijing in the disputed South China Sea.

She urged the U.S. to cease the "provocative actions". 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.

China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea, as do several of its neighbors, including the Philippines, Vietnam, and Taiwan.

China and the United States have repeatedly traded barbs in the past over what Washington says is Beijing's militarization of the South China Sea by building military installations on artificial islands and reefs.

Two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers - the USS Spruance and the USS Preble - conducted a freedom-of-navigation operation on Monday, sailing within 12 nautical miles of Chinese outposts in the contested Spratly Islands.

"Relevant activities of the US warships violated China's sovereignty and damaged peace, security and good order in relevant waters".

The Arleigh Burke destroyers Spruance and Preble on Monday conducted freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea "to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by global law", said Cmdr. In January, the destroyer USS McCampbell sailed within 22kms of the Paracel Islands.

Shortly after that operation, China accused the USA of trespassing in its territorial waters - and said it had deployed missiles "capable of targeting medium and large ships".

During that operation, a Chinese destroyer came within 45 yards of the United States warship, forcing it to maneuver to avoid a collision.

Analysts have said it would be hard for the world's two largest economies to resolve their trade disputes by the designated date, given the challenge of USA demands for structural reform in China to address issues of intellectual property protection, forced technology transfers and state subsidies favouring domestic companies.

Last year, China added surface-to-air missiles to the contested island, one of three that the Chinese military fortified in 2018.

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.

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