WASHINGTON, May 14 (UPI) -- Tensions are brewing in the South China Sea after a U.S. warship sailed into waters where China is staking territorial claims.
China's Foreign Ministry issued a warning Wednesday in response to the presence of the USS Fort Worth near man-made Chinese islands. But The Australian reported the United States is exploring options to defend the international waters from Chinese claims.
"The Chinese side will take resolute measures to safeguard national sovereignty and safety. We will keep an eye on the situation in relevant waters and airspace and respond to any violation of China's sovereignty and threat to China's national security," said Hua Chunying, a foreign ministry spokeswoman, according to USA Today.
On Monday the USS Fort Worth traveled through the South China Sea near man-made islands in an area where Philippine and Japanese navies have coordinated exercises.
Army Col. Steven Warren said Wednesday the Pentagon will continue to patrol the area around the disputed Spratly Islands, claimed by China, Taiwan and the Philippines.
Warren said China's man-made islands cannot be recognized as extensions of the Chinese mainland, according to international law. The White House has made a similar claim.
Patrick Ventrell, a National Security Council spokesman, said land reclamation, such as man-made islands, couldn't generate an entitlement to maritime zones.
Ventrell said the United States "will continue to operate consistent with the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea in the South China Sea."
The Spratly Islands lie in a hub of international shipping routes. Maritime trade valued at $5 trillion goes through the waters every year.