Beijing is condemning a US Navy sail-by in disputed waters in the South China Sea, calling it “illegal” and a threat to the country’s sovereignty.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen breached the 12-nautical mile zone China claims around Subi and Mischief reefs in the Spratly archipelago.
The US has confirmed the operation took place as part of its Freedom of Navigation program, BBC News reports.
The operation is a challenge to China’s claims over the artificial islands.
Lu Kang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said Beijing would “resolutely respond to any country’s deliberately provocative actions”.
He said the ship had been “tracked and warned” while on the mission to deliberately enter the disputed waters.
The Chinese foreign ministry summoned the US ambassador to protest the move.
Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the USS Lassen had passed within 12 miles of the islands.
The move was welcomed by several East Asian countries including the Philippines and Japan.
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