China blasted the United States Tuesday for flying a pair of B-52 bombers near disputed islands in the South China Sea, further fueling tensions between the two countries.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying accused the U.S. of "stirring up trouble" and warned "China will not be threatened by any military warships." Hua said China would do whatever is necessary to protect its sovereignty.
The bombers flew near Scarborough Shoal, which China seized from the Philippines six years ago. The flyby occurred after U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis accused China of "intimidation and coercion" in the South China Sea.
Beijing claims most of the sea, which has a wealth of resources and some of the world's busiest shipping lanes. The neighboring countries of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have competing claims to the sea.
Mattis said at a security conference in Singapore last weekend that China has deployed anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles on the disputed islands. Mattis promised the region would remain a "priority theater" for U.S. military forces and added the U.S. was willing to develop a "results-oriented" relationship with China
Despite escalating tensions, Mattis is expected to visit China, at China's invitation, on a date that has yet to be announced.
China's Defense Ministry has said it hoped for more interaction with the U.S. military.