Chinese officials reacted angrily to the presence of two U.S. Navy warships in the South China Sea on Sunday, with a Defense Ministry spokesman calling it a "provocation" and "a serious infringement on China's sovereignty".
The two ships sailed within 12 nautical miles of China's disputed waters, according to reports.
REUTERS An aerial view of Woody Island in the Paracels
China has controlled the Paracels entirely since violently seizing Vietnam's holdings in the area in 1974.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday challenged critics to provide evidence that the Duterte administration failed in protecting the country's rights over disputed islands in the South China Sea.More news: Israel starts building fortified maritime barrier on coastal border with Gaza
In March, a U.S. Navy destroyer carried out a "freedom of navigation" operation close to Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands.
Nighttime missions on aircraft carriers are considered far more hard and risky than those conducted in daytime.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have overlapping claims.More news: Subtropical Storm Alberto Heads Toward Gulf Coast
These maneuvers come just days after the Pentagon withdrew an invitation for China to attend the Rim of the Pacific exercise (RIMPAC). This spring, China landed strategic bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons on the island, a symbolic display of its deterrent power, and satellite imagery showed the arrival of surface-to-air missiles this month. It called on China to remove these systems.
The move prompted immediate criticism from the USA, which last week pulled its invitation to China to join maritime exercises in the Pacific because of Beijing's "continued militarisation" of the South China Sea.
China's foreign minister said China had a right to take whatever measures it deemed fit on its island holdings, and the defence ministry criticized the USA move as "unconstructive", saying it would do nothing to change China's resolve to "play a role in maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region".More news: Chelsea owner Abramovich immigrates to Israel, becomes country's richest citizen
- Italy's euroskeptic candidate for economy minister seeks to reassure president
- Warriors roar back to take West, setting up fourth finals against Cavs
- Cyclone Mekunu surges through Oman killing 2
- Trump says American prisoner in Venezuela has been released
- LeBron, Cavs facing win-or-else Game 6 vs Celtics
- Suspect in Custody After Shooting at Indiana Middle School
- Mike D'Antoni Says Chris Paul Is 'Doubtful' to Play Game 7
- Harvey Weinstein arrested on rape, criminal sex act charges
- Gallery: The best photos from Daniel Ricciardo's Monaco celebration
- Trump and Abe to meet before North Korea summit