Recent developments surrounding the South China Sea

China has voiced "strong dissatisfaction" after two United States warships sailed by an island claimed by Beijing in the disputed South China Sea, adding to simmering tensions in the strategic waterway.

Ships and aircraft were sent to the scene within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands to warn the U.S. warships to leave, with the ministry adding that its resolve to defend its land and waters was "unswerving".

The Higgins guided-missile destroyer and the Antietam guided-missile cruiser came within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands, according to an American official who only spoke on the condition of anonymity.

A statement released by the Chinese Ministry of Defense condemned the operation, saying that it had "contravened Chinese and relevant worldwide law, seriously infringed upon Chinese sovereignty [and] harmed strategic mutual trust between the two militaries".

The Pentagon said the withdrawal of the invitation was in response to what it sees as Beijing's militarisation of islands in the disputed South China Sea, a strategic waterway claimed in large part by Beijing. In retaliation for the deployment, the Pentagon last week rescinded an invitation for China to participate in a multinational naval exercise this summer near Hawaii.

The US Navy has pledged to continue regularly sending warships and jets to the South China Sea, openly defying China's accusations of violating its sovereignty. The operations, which the Obama administration curtailed somewhat but which picked up again under US President Donald Trump, are meant to exercise what the United States says are its rights under worldwide law.

The islands remain a highly contested territory, with China being one the claimants.

They act as stationary aircraft carriers from which Chinese bombers can take-off.

'It's also a decision taken lightly and is unhelpful to mutual understanding between China and the US, ' Wang said at a press conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after the two met in Washington.

China has been deploying serious military power to the region - including constructing manmade islands bristling with missiles.

They carried out maneuvering-operations near Tree, Triton and Woody islands.

A spokesman for the U.S. 7th Fleet, Cmdr Clay Doss, did not discuss the details of the Chinese challenge but said that in 2017, USA warships conducted similar operations in the waters of 22 different countries, including allies of the United States.

  • Joey Payne