THE UNITED States risks infuriating China after American warships performed a military exercise in the hotly contested South China Sea with Japan.
The Ronald Reagan Strike Group operated a gathering of its magnificent aircraft carriers on waters the Chinese are notoriously territorial about.
Up to five ships were spotted in the waters and surrounding areas including the USS Ronald Reagan, named after the 40th US president, guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam and the the guided-missile destroyer USS Milius.
Also included in the exercise was the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force ship’s the helicopter destroyer JS Kaga, the destroyer JS Inazuma and the the destroyer JS Suzutsuki.
Though it remains unknown what the exercise was for, the US has in the past been adamant about the freedom of navigation in the area and often orders its warships to sail through the disputed waters as part of a crackdown mission.
The gathering is likely to anger China, a nation that has continued to reject claims that Beijing considers the waters of the South China Sea its national territory.
China’s own claims over the region are challenged by several other countries, including Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
In June, when China’s leader Xi Jinping was challenged over the territory, he said: “We cannot lose even one inch of the territory left behind by our ancestors.
“What is other people’s we do not want at all.”
The gathering is likely to anger China (Image: PA)
The exercise comes in the wake of a furious US-China trade war that saw President Trump announce the powerhouse nation’s market had dropped by more than a quarter.
This followed Mr Trump slapping China with crippling tariffs he placed on Chinese imports of 25 percent on $200 billion worth of imports.
The Chinese government responded to the US administration by proposing retaliatory tariffs on $60 billion worth of US goods ranging from liquefied natural gas to aircraft.
The tariffs on China were put in place following Mr Trump’s repeats criticism to China for its trade deficit with the US, which he feels is a sign of unfair trade practices. In June, the British Navy announced it would follow the US and launch a mission into the South China Sea with France.