China said on Tuesday it opposed action by other countries under the pretext of freedom of navigation that undermined its sovereignty, after a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group began patrols in the contested South China Sea. The U.S. navy said the strike group, including the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier the USS Carl Vinson, began “routine operations” in the South China Sea on Saturday amid growing tension with China over control of the disputed waterway.  

“China always respects the freedom of navigation and overflight all countries enjoy under international law,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily news briefing. “But we are consistently opposed to relevant countries threatening and damaging the sovereignty and security of littoral countries under the flag of freedom of navigation and overflight,” Geng said in China’s first official comment on the latest U.S. patrol since it began. CONTINUE