The passage of a US warship close to a disputed island in the South China Sea was a “serious political and military provocation”, Beijing said, one that could further strain relations between the superpowers
The destroyer, the USS Stethem, sailed less than 12 nautical miles from tiny Triton Island in the Paracel Islands archipelago, which is claimed by China as well as Taiwan and Vietnam, a US official said.
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The distance is commonly accepted as constituting the territorial waters of a landmass.
The operation, meant to demonstrate freedom of navigation in disputed waters, came just hours before a scheduled phone call between President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
State media reported that Xi told US Trump bilateral relations were “affected by some negative factors”, following a series of US actions that angered Beijing.
But Xi also said Sino-US relations “have achieved important results” since the two met at Trump’s Florida resort in April, according to broadcaster CCTV.
China had dispatched military vessels and fighter planes in response to USS Stethem, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement late on Sunday, according to state news agency Xinhua.
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