China angrily lashed out at the United States because, despite various warnings, one of its warships violated the sovereignty of Chinese territorial waters in the South China Sea. The Chinese government told Washington these actions put peace and stability in the region at risk and that it is prepared to respond to any acts of provocation by any country.
“The Chinese side is ready to give an appropriate response to any country's provocations," Chinese state-owned news agency Xinhua quoted the government as saying.
"These actions of the U.S. warship are a threat to the sovereignty and security of China, and safety of people living on the islands,” said the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
A U.S. military source, who asked not to be identified, admitted to the Associated Press that a U.S. Navy ship had in fact sailed into China's territorial waters in the South China Sea, near artificial islands the Asian country built on top of reefs in the Spratly Islands.
Far from apologizing, the U.S. Navy told Reuters additional similar patrols would follow and said that the USS Lassen destroyer that violated China waters was accompanied by one or two U.S. Navy surveillance planes.
The USS Lassen passed within 12 nautical miles of the Subi and Mischief reefs, which belong to the Spratly archipelago, over which China claims sovereignty. The reefs were initially submerged before China carried out an ambitious dredging project, turning them into islands.
Spratly Islands | Photo: Reuters
"China consistently respects and defends the freedom of navigation and flight of any country in accordance with international law. However, it firmly opposes any country harming China's sovereignty and security under the pretext of freedom of navigation and flight," Beijing said, according to Xinhua.
The Chinese government said it resolutely defends the sovereignty, security and rights to territorial waters under international law.
According to Xinhua, the U.S. violation of its territorial waters threatens to increase the tensions between both countries weeks ahead of several Asia-Pacific summits scheduled for late November. The presidents of China, Xi Jinping, and of the U.S., Barack Obama, are expected to attend those meetings.
A U.S. defense official told CNN that USS Lassen's mission had the approval of Obama.
"We advise the U.S. side to think twice before action, not to conduct any rash action, and not to create trouble out of nothing," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who confirmed the U.S. warship had breached the 12-mile zone.
In May, a U.S. surveillance plane carrying a CNN crew swooped over the Spratly Islands, triggering eight warnings from the Chinese navy to back off.
WATCH: China, Vietnam Meet to Discuss the South China Sea