A U.S. guided-missile destroyer on Monday sailed near disputed islands in the South China Sea in what Beijing called a “provocation” as U.S. officials joined talks in China during a truce in a bitter trade war.
The USS McCampbell carried out a “freedom of navigation” operation, sailing within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Island chain, “to challenge excessive maritime claims”, a Pacific Fleet spokeswoman said in a statement.
A spokesperson for China's foreign ministry called the naval maneuver a violation of international law.
(SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN, LU KANG, SAYING: "We urge the United States to immediately cease this kind of provocation.
China will continue to take necessary measures to defend its national sovereignty and security." Asked about the timing of the operation during trade talks, the spokesperson said resolving issues would benefit the two countries and the world.
The statement came as trade talks between China and the United States were under way in Beijing, the first round of face-to-face discussions since both sides agreed to a 90-day truce in a trade war that has roiled international markets.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in December agreed to put on hold a spiraling trade dispute of tit-for-tat import tariffs on hundreds of billions worth of goods.
On Sunday Trump said he believed his tariffs would produce a beneficial trade deal.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING (ON TRADE NEGOTIATIONS WITH CHINA): "I spoke to President Xi recently.
I really believe they want to make a deal, that tariffs have absolutely hurt China really badly." U.S. officials are meeting their counterparts in Beijing for face-to-face meetings this week.
But so far few details had emerged of the talks, which were scheduled to run through Tuesday.