International

Tensions escalate as US warships sail past islands claimed by China

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Preble departs Naval Base San Diego for a scheduled underway, San Diego, California, February 6, 2013. (Photo via Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images).

The ships were warned away by the Chinese navy (Picture: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Two US warships have sailed near islands claimed by China today in a move that could aggravate tense relations between the countries.

According to the US military, the guided-missile destroyers Preble and Chung Hoon travelled within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson Reefs by the Spratly Islands, in the South China Sea.

The waterway is one area of dispute between the US and China that has the potential of triggering a war.

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Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the Seventh Fleet, told Reuters the innocent passage aimed to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law.

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang stated that the US ships were warned to leave by the Chinese navy.

He said the ships entered the waters without the Chinese governments permission, adding that the move had infringed upon Chinese sovereignty and damaged the peace, security and good order of the relevant seas.

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China is strongly dissatisfied with this and resolutely opposed to it, he said.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by U S Navy/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock (9962056aq) Pacific Ocean - The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) and the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) sail through the Pacific Ocean. John C. Stennis and Chung-Hoon are currently conducting routine operations as part of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 3 in the U.S. 3rd Fleet area of operations. US military - 2018

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said the nation would defend its security if necessary (Picture: Rex Features)

Geng added that China would take the necessary steps to defend its security, warning the US to stop such provocative actions.

The U.S. military has a long-standing position that its operations are carried out throughout the world, including areas claimed by allies, and that they are separate from political considerations.

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