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The first time that a USA destroyer carried out a "freedom of navigation" operation under President Donald Trump, was in May 2017.

Ren called the move a provocation by the US and said China resolutely opposes such actions because they harm the military relations between the two countries, China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Even as the world focused on the impending trade war between the USA and China, tension escalated in the disputed South China Sea region where the U.S. on Friday, March 23, conducted its first freedom of navigation operation since January, inviting Beijing's wrath.

The Vietnamese foreign ministry did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

"By repeatedly sending military ships into these areas without authorization, the U.S. has seriously harmed Chinese sovereignty and security, violated basic rules of worldwide relations, and harmed regional peace and stability", the spokesman said.

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"The provocative behavior by the U.S. side will only cause the Chinese military to further strengthen building up defense abilities in all areas". China asserted that two People's Liberation Army Navy frigates warded off the U.S. vessel.

Beijing has denied claims of neighbouring countries like the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei over the waters to virtually claiming the entire South China Sea and set up a series of outposts to create what the experts define "fully functioning air and naval bases". The US warship is also said to have conducted maneuvers near the Chinese base.

The ministry claimed that by carrying out these so-called infringements, the United States had "damaged the atmosphere of military-to-military relations between the two countries, caused close encounters by air and naval forces, which could easily trigger miscalculation or even accidents at sea or in air".

In October 2017, the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Chafee also sailed close to the Paracels, provoking a stern reaction from the Chinese Defense Ministry.

Today, the Chinese Navy is holding a live-fire drill in the sea to test its combat readiness.

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The US has been criticizing China for constructing islands and military installations and limiting the free movement in the global trade route.

"The goal is to test and improve the training level of the troops and comprehensively improve the ability to win", state media said.

The Spanish operator has been told by state-owned PetroVietnam to suspend the field scheme - translated as Red Emperor - off the country's south-east coast just as it was about to mobilise a rig to kick off commercial drilling work, the BBC reported, citing a well-placed industry source.

This story was first published on CNN.com, "US destroyer sails close to contested island in South China Sea".

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