The move angered Beijing at a time when the U.S. and China ton are locked in a trade war and are negotiating a deal ahead of a March 1 deadline when USA tariffs on $ 200 billion worth of Chinese imports are expected to increase to 25 per cent from 10 per cent.
British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson confirmed in a speech Monday morning that the Royal Navy's HMS Queen Elizabeth will sail into waters that are the subject of dispute between China and other nations.
11, the United States conducted another Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) in the South China Sea, sending two naval vessels near the Spratly Islands. A spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry, Hua Chunying, accused the United States of entering Chinese waters without permission and engaging in provocations that threaten China's sovereignty, the South China Morning Post reported.
The guided-missile destroyers USS Spruance and USS Preble sailed within 22kms of the Spratly Islands as part of what the US Navy calls a "freedom of navigation operation".
Navy spokesman Commander Clay Doss told USA media: "All operations are designed in accordance with global law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever worldwide law allows".
'China has indisputable sovereignty over islands in the South China Sea, including the Second Thomas Shoal, Mischief Reef, and the adjacent waters, ' Hua said.
The Chinese foreign ministry on Monday said the People's Liberation Army Navy sent vessels to track the U.S. warships sailing near the Spratlys and warned them to leave the area.
China and the United States have repeatedly traded barbs in the past over what Washington says is Beijing's militarization of the South China Sea by building military installations on artificial islands and reefs. In January, the destroyer USS McCampbell challenged China's claims to the Paracel Islands.
Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan all have competing claims for territory in the region.
The destroyers conducted the passage, illustrating the continuing USA military presence in the area, to which China routinely has objected.
As U.S. -China trade negotiations resumes with deputy level meetings, the two countries are trying to hammer out a deal before the March 1 deadline.
The two countries are also at loggerheads over regional security, with the U.S. offering support to the island nation of Taiwan, which China also claims as its own.