China struck an upbeat note on Monday as trade talks resumed with the United States, but also expressed anger at a U.S. Navy mission through the disputed South China Sea, casting a shadow over the prospect for improved Beijing-Washington ties.
Aerial view on the The Spratly Islands, one of the major archipelagos in the South China Sea.
Washington has hit back in the past, claiming it is countering Beijing's militarisation of the South China Sea by building army installations on artificial reefs and islands.
Two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers - the USS Spruance and the USS Preble - conducted a freedom-of-navigation operation on Monday, sailing within 12 nautical miles of Chinese outposts in the contested Spratly Islands.
Speaking about the most recent operation, Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet, told CNN that the action was meant to "to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by global law".
The rising military tension comes against the backdrop of an increasingly bitter trade war between China and the US.
The warships were shadowed by Chinese assets, but the interactions were routine and uneventful, according to a separate USA official.
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Shortly after that operation, China accused the USA of trespassing in its territorial waters - and said it had deployed missiles "capable of targeting medium and large ships".
Tensions have been high for years between Washington and Beijing in the South China Sea, with the USA regularly drawing Chinese ire.
At an address given to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London, Williamson said Britain was the second largest investor in the region and it must display "hard power" and "lethality" to help protect interests.
Beijing accused the United States of entering Chinese waters without permission and engaging in provocations that threaten China's sovereignty.
The US is "determined to stir up trouble in the South China Sea, create tension and undermine peace", Hua said.
The talks this week will be led on the Chinese side by Vice-Premier Liu He, Beijing's chief trade negotiator.
Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin is leading a delegation set to meet with Chinese officials on Thursday and Friday.
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