U.S. Navy drills in the South China Sea on Sunday have led to renewed tension between Washington and Beijing.
Despite China’s warnings, the U.S. Navy sailed the warship USS Preble next to a disputed shoal under the Beijing’s control.
The move drew a sharp reaction from China which “strongly urged” the U.S. to halt such “provocative actions”.
Various reports said the U.S. sailed the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer armed with Tomahawk missiles near the Scarborough Shoal in what is seen as “challenge” to Beijing’s claim on the area.
Washington said its drills in the South China were conducted under the “freedom of navigation” and has refused Beijing’s demands.
“Preble sailed within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough Reef in order to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law,” Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the U.S. Seventh Fleet, stated.
One of the biggest flash points in Asia, China claims sovereignty over the entire South China Sea.
Spread over 3.5 million square kilometers, the sea is one of the world’s busiest shipping routes and covers a vast reserve of gas and oil.
In a decades-long dispute, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan challenge China’s claim over different patches of the body of water.
The U.S. said China was building military installations on artificial islands and reefs in the South China Sea, which Beijing argues are necessary for its “self-defense”.
Beijing has accused Washington of “inflaming tension” by sending warships and military aircraft close to islands under China’s claims.