China Upbeat on US Trade Talks, But S. China Sea Tensions Weigh

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

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

The destroyers' transit on Monday took place as officials in Washington and Beijing negotiated trade talks.

The alleged incursion by two USA warships into the internationally disputed waters of the South China Sea was the second such move within five weeks.

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

The US delegates and their counterparts began preliminary talks in the Chinese capital on Monday, before higher-level discussions led on the US side by Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday and Friday. The ships entered the waters without China's permission, ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.The US warships sailed near the islands the same day that China resumed trade talks with Washington.

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

Pentagon officials said two guided-missile destroyers had travelled within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the fiercely disputed Spratly Islands.

Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam also have territorial claims in the region.

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"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". In January, the destroyer USS McCampbell challenged China's claims to the Paracel Islands.

The Navy sent USS Preble, left, and USS Spruance, right, near the Chinese manmade island of Mischief Reef in the South China Sea, the location of several territorial conflicts that have raised tensions in the region.

"We conduct routine and regular freedom of navigation operations as we have done in the past and will continue to in the future", he said.

'The relevant actions of the U.S. warships violated Chinese sovereignty, and undermined peace, security, and order in the relevant sea areas, ' Hua said.

It comes at a time of increasing tensions between the United States and China over an ongoing trade war.

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

China says the construction is necessary for defence, and it was the United States that was responsible for tensions by sending warships and military planes close to islands Beijing claims.

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