United States warship sails close to Chinese-controlled features in South China Sea

The disputed Paracel Islands consist of a group of islands, reefs and shoals presently controlled and occupied by the People's Republic of China but also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

Beijing has also warned USA warships and military aircraft to stay away from these islands.

The Chinese spokesperson said the United States warship violated Chinese and worldwide laws and seriously threatened China's sovereignty and security.

"The US destroyer's behavior violated Chinese law and relevant global law, severely harmed China's sovereignty and security interests, and threatened the lives of military personnel of both sides", ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily press briefing.

The incident with the USS "Chafee" would affect trust between the militaries of the two countries, the ministry stated, adding that further operations of such nature might trigger "unwanted incidents".

China sent a guided-missile frigate, two fighter jets and a helicopter to warn off the USS "Chafee" near disputed islands in the South China Sea, accusing the United States of damaging the country's sovereignty and security interests in the region.

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"We demand the USA side earnestly take steps to correct its mistakes", it added.

"China will continue to take resolute measures to protect Chinese sovereign territory and maritime interests".

U.S. President Donald Trump will makes his first visit to Asia as president next month.

China claims the South China Sea and its islands virtually in their entirety. China is North Korea's neighbor and biggest trading partner.

A U.S. Navy destroyer reportedly sailed near Chinese-claimed islands in the South China Sea on Tuesday.

The officials, who asked to remain anonymous, claimed that the USS Chafee, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, "challenged excessive maritime claims" near the Paracel Islands by sailing close to, but not within, the 12-nautical-mile limit of the islands. "China is firmly opposed to that and has lodged stern representations with the U.S.".

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