China drove away a US guided-missile cruiser which had “illegally intruded” near the South China Sea’s Spratly Islands, its military said on Tuesday.
The US vessel, the USS Chancellorsville, sailed past the islands moving through the Taiwan Strait.
“The actions of the US military seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security,” said Tian Junli, spokesman for the Southern Theatre Command of the People’s Liberation Army.
The US navy disputed the claim, calling it “false” and “the latest in a long string of PRC actions to misrepresent lawful US maritime operations”.
“USS Chancellorsville [conducted] normal operations in waters where high seas freedoms apply,” the statement said. “The United States is defending every nation’s right to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows.”
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, and the waters have become one of many flashpoints in the testy relationship between it and the United States.
Photos were revealed last month of heavily armed military bases China is building on artificial islands near the Spratly islands.
China’s ‘Unlawful’ Territorial Claims
The United States rejects what it calls China’s unlawful territorial claims in the resource-rich waters.
US warships have passed through the South China Sea with increasing frequency in recent years in an effort to show the Chinese claims are not valid.
Earlier, China’s military said the US cruiser’s latest passage showed that the United States was a “security risk-maker” in the South China Sea.
China’s military said its troops would remain on high alert.
- Reuters, with additional editing from Alfie Habershon