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China Upbeat on US Trade Talks, But S. China Sea Tensions Weigh

12 February 2019

If a deal wasn't made by that date, the White House has said it will raise the tariff rate on more than $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25% from their current level of 10%.

The alleged incursion by two US warships into the internationally disputed waters of the South China Sea was the second such move within five weeks.

The United Kingdom announced Monday that it will send a new aircraft carrier and two squadrons of F-35 fighter jets to the South China Sea as part of a mixed UK/US deployment.

She urged the U.S. to cease the "provocative actions". When asked if the Navy's move would affect the talks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called it "a series of US tricks, "according to Reuters".

Another US warship, USS McCampbell, sailed within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometres) of the Paracel Islands chain - north of the Spratly Islands - on January 7 during a previous round of trade talks between the two countries.

It was the second such U.S. operation in the South China Sea this year. "That is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe", he said.

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 US action violated the Chinese laws and worldwide laws, infringed China's sovereignty, damaged regional peace, security, and order", Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said at the time.

Freedom of navigation operations, or FONOPS, are meant to remind other countries that all nations can operate in worldwide waters.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it.

China says the construction is necessary for defence, and it was the USA that was responsible for tensions by sending warships and military planes close to islands Beijing claims.

The rising military tension comes against the backdrop of an increasingly bitter trade war between China and the US.

China claims a large part of the South China Sea, and has built artificial islands and air bases there, prompting concern around the region and in Washington.

The two countries are also at odds over regional security, including Washington's overtures to the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own.

China Upbeat on US Trade Talks, But S. China Sea Tensions Weigh