China on Wednesday protested the sailing of a U.S. Navy ship near its territorial claims in the South China Sea, saying it would continue to take measures to protect Beijing's interests in the vital waterway claimed by several nations.
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 sent military vessels and planes to investigate and identify the United States military ship and warned it to leave", Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Wednesday said at a regular news briefing.
The Huangshan guided-missile frigate, two J-11B fighter jets and one Z-8 helicopter were sent to counter the USA ship in the disputed South China Sea, China's Ministry of National Defense (MND) said Wednesday. The Navy does not announce such missions in advance and the official spoke on condition of anonymity.
They said that the USS Chafee approached to a distant of 30 kms from the islands as part of a U.S. military strategy to "challenge Beijing's excessive maritime claims". She said the military verified the presence of the US ship by sea and air and warned it off.
Washington claims that China has blocked free movement of vessels in areas, which should be used for worldwide navigation without any restriction under the global protocol.
The US, which routinely carries out military drills in the sea along with Japan and South Korea, has called on China to retract its military presence from waters, which are not part of its territory.
Beijing has long accused Washington of meddling in the South China Sea.
It added that it would further strengthen its naval and air defenses.