U.S. destroyer sails near China-claimed island 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

Beijing-China has scrambled two fighter jets, a helicopter and a guided-missile frigate to deter a USA frigate which was nearing disputed islands in the South China Sea.

A USA official said the destroyer USS Chafee sailed near the Paracel Islands on Tuesday, coming within 16 nautical miles (30 kilometers) of land.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying denounced the mission as risky and a violation of China's sovereignty.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Defense Ministry announced that the US' actions would affect trust between both countries' militaries and could trigger "unwanted incidents".

Following Tuesday's event, the ministry said the USA had "infringed upon China's sovereignty and security, harmed mutual trust between the two armies as well as regional stability".

The guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee, seen here in 2012, sailed close to the islands but did not cross territorial boundaries.

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China said on Wednesday it has lodged a protest with the United States after an American warship sailed near disputed islands in the South China Sea.

According to the US State Department, "US policy since 1983 that the US will exercise and assert its navigation and overflight rights and freedoms on a worldwide basis in a manner that is consistent with the balance of interests reflected in the Law of the Sea convention".

The disputed Paracel Islands consist of a group of islands, reefs and shoals presently controlled and occupied by the People's Republic of China but also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

China, however, has objected to USA intervention in the area, accusing Washington of seeking to destabilize the region and undermine the unity among the Southeast Asian nations.

China claims the South China Sea and its islands virtually in their entirety, and its military expelled Vietnamese forces from the Paracels in 1974.

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