China says US aims to 'stir up trouble' with naval sail-by

An MH-60R Seahawk attached to the

US warships again challenge China's claims in South China Sea

The Chinese side immediately conducted verification and identification on the USA ships and warned them to leave, said the spokeswoman.

Beijing and Washington are locked in a trade war and the two sides are trying to hammer out a deal ahead of a March 1 deadline when United States tariffs on US$200 billion (S$271 billion) worth of Chinese imports are scheduled to increase to 25 per cent from 10 per cent.

Two U.S. warships have sailed close to islands claimed by China in the disputed South China Sea - a move that could negatively impact on-going trade talks between the two nations.

Beijing accused the USA of entering Chinese waters without permission and engaging in provocations that threaten China's sovereignty.

China's foreign ministry expressed anger on Monday after the warships sailed in the disputed South China Sea.

The move angered Beijing at a time when the U.S. and China ton are locked in a trade war and are negotiating a deal ahead of a March 1 deadline when United States tariffs on $ 200 billion worth of Chinese imports are expected to increase to 25 per cent from 10 per cent.

Trade talks between the US and China have resumed and China is reportedly upbeat.

The USS McCampbell destroyer conducted a "freedom of navigation" operation within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands five weeks ago to "challenge excessive maritime claims", according to the Pacific Fleet, which Beijing also protested. "China urges the U.S. to immediately stop such provocative actions and earnestly respect the efforts by regional countries to maintain the peace and stability of the South China Sea".

The operation was the US's latest attempt to counter what it sees as China's mission to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters where Chinese, Japanese and Southeast Asian navies operated.

Tensions have been high for years between Washington and Beijing in the South China Sea, with the us regularly drawing Chinese ire.

The rising military tension comes against the backdrop of an increasingly bitter trade war between China and the US.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it.

Communist superpower China claims ownership over nearly all of the South China Sea - frequently slamming the United States and its allies for naval operations in the territory.

In mid-January, US and British warships conducted their first joint military exercises in the South China Sea since Beijing began building bases and air strips on islands.

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