US VICE President Mike Pence has lashed out at Beijing, saying the South China Sea does not belong to any one nation and the US will continue to sail and fly where international law permits.
Mr Pence made the remarks on Friday. His searing intervention is likely to infuriate China. The Asian superpower claims ownership of the disputed strategic sea route.
The Vice President said: “The South China Sea doesn't belong to any one nation, and you can be sure the United States will continue to sail and fly wherever international law allows and our national interests demand.”
Donald Trump’s United States has embarked upon a series of “freedom navigation” drills in the contested South China Sea.
The exercises have angered Beijing, who argue they threaten its sovereignty.
China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan, all have claims in the South China Sea.
Some $3trillion (£2.4trillion) of ship-borne trade passes through the strategic ocean artery each year.