South China Sea warning: Tensions erupt between US and Beijing as Trump sends combat ships

China’s continued efforts to establish military and economic footholds in the region has brought the country increasingly in to conflict with the US, which has frequently sent warships past the disputed reefs in what it describes as “freedom of navigation” operations.

Speaking on Tuesday, US secretary of defence Mark Esper confirmed the United States was conducting more patrols in South China Sea all in an effort to send a signal to China.

The US “rejects attempts by any nation to use coercion or intimidation to advance international interests at the expense of others”, he said during a visit to the Philippines another country claiming the controversial region.

He also urged nations with South China Sea claims to assert their sovereign rights to put China “on the right path”.

“The clear signal that we’re trying to send is not that we oppose China per se, but that we all stand for international rules and international laws and that we think China should abide by them as well,” Esper said.

In previous freedom of navigation missions most vessels were guided missile destroyers or cruisers.