US Navy destroyer sails near disputed islands in South China Sea

USS Chafee a US Navy destroyer which operates 100 percent on biofuel sails about 150 miles north of the island of Oahu during the RIMPAC Naval exercises off Hawaii July 18,2012. REUTERS  Hugh Gentry (UNITED STATES- Tags BUSINESS MILITARY ENERG

USS Chafee a US Navy destroyer which operates 100 percent on biofuel sails about 150 miles north of the island of Oahu during the RIMPAC Naval exercises off Hawaii July 18,2012. REUTERS Hugh Gentry (UNITED STATES- Tags BUSINESS MILITARY ENERG

China has asked the United States to respect its sovereignty after a U.S. warship entered the waters of South China Sea.

The operation was part of a longstanding effort to challenge Beijing's "excessive maritime claims", the officials said, adding that the U.S. does not recognize China's claim of sovereignty in that location and regards the area as worldwide waters.

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. The American vessel conducted normal manoeuvring operations near the Paracel Islands, and a string of islets, reefs and shoals in the sea area.

The South China Sea has crucial shipping lanes, rich fishing grounds and potential oil, gas and other mineral deposits. The US Navy has not confirmed it as the freedom to navigate operation as yet.

Tensions have ratcheted up as China has reclaimed land in massive dredging operations, turning sandbars into islands equipped with airfields, ports and lighthouses.

Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claim territory in the vast sea. She said the military verified the presence of the USA ship by sea and air and warned it off.

China's Defense Ministry said Wednesday that it sent a warship, two fighter jets and a helicopter to warn the US destroyer away, calling the move a "provocation".

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