The US Navy sent two destroyers with guided missiles to challenge China in the South China Sea, and Beijing is outraged.
The Arleigh Burke class destroyers – USS Spruance and USS Preble – performed a free navigation operation on Monday, sailing within 12 nautical miles of Chinese outposts on the embattled Spratly Islands.
The aim was to "challenge excessive maritime claims and gain access to the waterways" as well as show that the US "will fly, sail and operate where international law permits," said Cmdr. Clay Doss, a spokesman for the US Navy's 7th fleet, told CNN.
Beijing sharply criticized the operation. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the US had invaded Chinese waters without permission and made provocations threatening China's sovereignty, Reuters reported.
China's claims to the South China Sea were largely discredited by an international arbitral tribunal three years ago. Beijing rejected the verdict and authority of the tribunal.
Since then, the Chinese military has strengthened China's military presence in the region through the use of ground-to-air missiles, anti-ship missiles, jamming technology and other defense systems in China-occupied areas of the region.
The flyby on Monday is the second US navigation freedom this year in the South China Sea. In January, the destroyer USS McCampbell sailed against China's claims to the Paracel Islands.
Read more: The US Navy sent the destroyer USS McCampbell and the supply oiler USS Walter S. Diehl through the Taiwan Strait
. China accuses the US of having been abused "Long Range Ballistic Missile Defense Missiles" (DF-26), which "can target medium and large ships".
Read More: China Launches 'Ship Killer' Missiles Within Range When US Warships Excite Beijing in the South China Sea
The US also has warships passing through the Taiwan Strait sailed and pulled Beijing's anger.
During a navigation operation in the South China Sea in September, a Chinese destroyer called for a US ship to showdown, forcing the US Navy ship off course and risking a potentially fatal crash.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the People's Liberation Army Navy sent ships to track US warships sailing near the Spratlys and warned them to leave the area.
The US Navy, however, has emphasized that it has nowhere to go. "We have big interests there, so we'll stay there," said Admiral John Richardson, chief naval operations officer recently.