The destroyer “Higgins” and the cruise “Antietam” approached the archipelago of the Paracels, islands claimed by the communist government and in which it builds military installations despite the international repudiation and a judicial ruling against it.
The Beijing government expressed its “strong discontent” over the presence of two US warships after an incident on Sunday in the South China Sea, an area disputed between several countries.
In a statement released on Sunday evening, Chinese diplomacy spokesman Lu Kang reported that two American ships, the destroyer “Higgins” and the cruiser “Antietam” approached the archipelago of the Paracels (Xisha in Chinese), islands claimed by China.
The Chinese navy ordered them to leave and expelled them from the area, according to the state news agency Xinhua.
The United States Navy regularly conducts operations called “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea, where Beijing builds military installations on artificial islands reaffirming their territorial claims.
Almost a third of world trade goes through this strategic area.
Beijing claims almost all of the South China Sea despite an international arbitration of 2016 against it. Different parts of the area are also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
“China firmly calls on the United States to cease immediately this type of provocations that violate China’s sovereignty and threaten its security,” Lu said.
The incident comes just days after the Chinese army organized bombings on May 18 from one of the Paracels Islands, prompting protests from the United States, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Beijing had already deployed missiles in the archipelago of the Spratleys islands south of the Paracels in early May, according to the US television channel CNBC, which quoted sources close to the intelligence services.