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US raises no objection over China aircraft carrier drill

FILE - In this undated file photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, China's aircraft carrier Liaoning berths in a port of China. China's military says its first aircraft carrier group has carried out a series of fighter launch, recovery and air combat exercises in the Yellow Sea amid tensions with the U.S. and Taiwan. The Defense Ministry announced late Friday that the Liaoning carrier group conducted the drills in the Yellow Sea in recent days and is scheduled to continue exercises farther afield. AP/Xinhua, Li Tang, File

WASHINGTON — The United States says China has the right to sail in international waters after a Chinese aircraft carrier cruised past Taiwan and into the contested South China Sea.

Taiwan's Defense Ministry reported Monday that the aircraft carrier and five warships sailed 90 nautical miles south of Taiwan, a self-governing island claimed by China. Beijing says it is a routine training exercise.

China has previously accused U.S. warships of making provocative passes through the South China Sea.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Tuesday the U.S. recognizes lawful uses of the sea, and the same rights apply to the U.S., China and other nations.

He said, "as we often make the case with our own naval vessels sailing ... in those same waters, it's freedom of navigation."

Earlier this month, a Chinese navy vessel seized an U.S. Navy underwater glider that the U.S. said was conducting oceanic research in international waters off the Philippines.

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The U.S. called the seizure illegal and made a diplomatic protest. China returned the glider five days later.

Beijing claims most of the South China Sea. Five other Asian governments also claim ownership of islands and reefs there.

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