Beijing, Oct 12: To deter US missile frigate which was nearing disputed islands in the South China Sea, China has sent two fighter jets, a helicopter and a guided-missile frigate. China scrambled the Huangshan guided-missile frigate, two J-11B fighter jets and one Z-8 helicopter to counter the US ship in the South China Sea. The development comes after the guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee sailed within 16 nautical miles of the disputed Paracel Islands.

“In the face of repeated provocation by the US forces, the Chinese military will further strengthen preparation for combat at sea and in the air and improve the defences to resolutely defend national sovereignty and security interests,” the Chinese Defense Ministry said in a statement.

On Wednesday, three US officials reportedly said the USS Chafee destroyer had sailed near the disputed Islands in the South China Sea for “freedom of navigation” operation. Speaking to Reuters, the US officials said that the guided-missile destroyer had carried out normal manoeuvring operations “very close” to the 12-nautical-mile territorial limits of the islands.

“The US destroyer’s behaviour violated Chinese law and relevant international law, severely harmed China’s sovereignty and security interests and threatened the lives of both sides’ frontline personnel,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying was quoted as saying. She added that Beijing had lodged “stern representations” with Washington while calling on the US to respect China’s sovereignty.

The US, which often carries out routine military drills in the South China Sea along with Japan and South Korea, has called on China to retract its military presence from the waters. According to the US, China has blocked free movement of vessels in areas. Under the international protocols, the waters should be used for international navigation without any restriction, claims Washington.

On the other hand, China asserts sovereignty over almost all of the strategically vital waters and has accused Washinton of deliberately interfering in the South China Sea to create a rift among the Southeast Asian nations.