US Navy warships sail in South China Sea near contested manmade island

An MH-60R Seahawk attached to the

The destroyers' transit on Monday took place as officials in Washington and Beijing negotiated trade talks.

British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson confirmed in a speech Monday morning that the Royal Navy's HMS Queen Elizabeth will sail into waters that are the subject of dispute between China and other nations.

A pair of Navy guided-missile destroyers have sailed within a dozen nautical miles of disputed islands China is believed to have militarized - a move that has angered some in Beijing.

In September, a Chinese warship came within just 45 yards of a US destroyer, raising concerns about the possibility of tensions boiling over into conflict.

The two warships entered China's territorial seas around the Nansha Islands without permission from the Chinese government, ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily news briefing.

The goal was "to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways", as well as to show that the U.S. "will fly, sail, and operate wherever worldwide law allows", Cmdr.

"The US action violated the Chinese laws and global laws, infringed China's sovereignty, damaged regional peace, security, and order", Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said at the time.

The Spratly Islands are a disputed group of islands, islets and cays and more than 100 reefs, sometimes grouped in submerged old atolls, in the South China Sea.

Washington has hit back in the past, claiming it is countering Beijing's militarisation of the South China Sea by building army installations on artificial reefs and islands. In January, the destroyer USS McCampbell challenged China's claims to the Paracel Islands.

China says the construction is necessary for defence, and it was the U.S. that was responsible for tensions by sending warships and military planes close to islands Beijing claims.

It comes at a time of increasing tensions between the United States and China over an ongoing trade war.

Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan all have competing claims for territory in the region.

Top US officials have attacked China for everything from human rights abuses to cyber espionage in America.

"All operations are designed in accordance with worldwide law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever global law allows", said Doss.

The two countries are also at loggerheads over regional security, with the USA offering support to the island nation of Taiwan, which China also claims as its own.

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