China has urged the US to think twice about “making trouble” after Washington launched a direct military challenge to Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea with naval manoeuvres near two artificial islands in the region.

Chinese authorities say they monitored, followed and warned US warship USS Lassen as it “illegally” entered waters near the disputed reefs, and urged Washington to “immediately correct its mistake”.

The USS Lassen began its mission through waters near the disputed Spratly archipelago at about 6.40am local time on Tuesday.

“The operation has begun … It will be complete within a few hours,” a senior US defence official was quoted as saying by Reuters.

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