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Recent developments surrounding the South China Sea

China aims to build a power grid to span the South China Sea

Two US Navy warships sailed provocatively close to the South China Sea islands claimed by China on Sunday, raising protests from Beijing.

The two ships sailed within 12 nautical miles of China's disputed waters, according to reports.

The two ships passed within 12 miles of four islands - Tree, Lincoln, Triton and Woody - according to a United States defence official.

The spokesman also called the U.S. move "provocative and arbitrary", which he said "undermined strategic mutual trust between the two militaries".

In a statement, ministry spokesman Wu Qian said Chinese navy vessels were deployed "to conduct legal identification and verification of the United States warships and warn them off".

The Philippine foreign secretary says China has been notified of "red lines", or actions Manila would find unacceptable, in the South China Sea, including construction activities on a disputed shoal and extraction of oil and gas in disputed waters.

China said "mutual trust between the two militaries" had been "harmed" as a result, and that it would "continue to take all necessary measures to defend the country's sovereignty and security".

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"US forces operate in the Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea", Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Logan said.

China's military, he said, would be "firm and unwavering in its determination to strengthen sea and air operational preparedness construction" on the islands.

China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which about US$3 trillion worth of sea-borne goods passes every year.

RIMPAC is held every two years and involves more than 20 countries, including Japan, India, and the UK.

The operation was conducted just over a week after Beijing flew nuclear-capable bombers to a disputed island in a bold powerplay to show its military might and boost its territorial claims in the area.

Pompeo did not comment on the matter, saying only that the pair had had a "good discussion" about American concerns of militarization of the South China Sea.

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he was not satisfied with talks aimed at averting a trade war with China.

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