WASHINGTON - The United States says China has the right to sail in international waters after a Chinese aircraft carrier cruised past Taiwan and into the contested South China Sea.
Taiwan's Defense Ministry reported Monday that the aircraft carrier and five warships sailed 90 nautical miles south of Taiwan, a self-governing island claimed by China. Beijing said it was conducting a routine training exercise.
China has previously accused U.S. warships of making provocative passes through the South China Sea.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Tuesday that the U.S. recognizes lawful uses of the sea, and that the same rights apply to the U.S., China and other nations.
He said, "As we often make the case with our own naval vessels sailing ... in those same waters, it's freedom of navigation.''
Earlier this month, a Chinese naval vessel seized an U.S. Navy underwater glider that the U.S. said was conducting oceanic research in international waters off the Philippines. The U.S. called the seizure illegal and made a diplomatic protest. China returned the glider five days later.
Beijing claims most of the South China Sea. Five other Asian governments also claim ownership of islands and reefs there.