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China calls US operation in South China Sea a 'serious provocation'

"Under the pretext of ‘freedom of navigation,’ the US side once again sent a military vessel into China's territorial waters off the Xisha Islands without China's approval," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said. FMPRC/Released

MANILA, Philippines — Claiming that Washington has violated Chinese law and relevant international law, Beijing deployed military vessels and fighters jets to warn off a US warship that sailed near one of its the islands in the disputed South China Sea.

The Pentagon earlier confirmed that USS Stethem, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer of the US Navy, sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the Paracel Islands.

The US destroyer passed by the island to challenge the claim of China, as well as Vietnam and Taiwan.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that the US sent the military vessel into China's territorial waters without approval under the pretext of freedom of navigation.

READ: US destroyer sails near disputed South China Sea island

Beijing expressed its dissatisfaction and opposition to the behavior of the US and claimed that China and Southeast Asian nations have "cooled down" and improved the situation in the disputed South China Sea.

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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said that US behavior "has violated the Chinese law and relevant international law, infringed upon China's sovereignty, disrupted peace, security and order of the relevant waters and put in jeopardy the facilities and personnel on the Chinese islands, and thus constitutes a serious political and military provocation."

China accused the US of deliberately stirring up trouble in the region by "running in the opposite direction from countries in the region who aspire for stability, cooperation and development."

Beijing called on Washington to stop its operations that violate their sovereignty and threaten their security.

"The Chinese side will continue to take all necessary means to defend national sovereignty and security," Lu said.

Last May, Beijing also protested a US Navy patrol that sent a guided missile destroyer that tool place around Mischief Reef, one of China's artificial islands in the Spratly Islands.

USS Dewey sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, which is also being claimed by the Philippines.

RELATED: Challenging China, US launches first South China Sea operation under Trump | Beijing protests US Navy patrol through South China Sea

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