Chinese warships conducted an unannounced live fire drill in the South China Sea on Monday, in response to the US maritime patrol in the region. The incident happened after USS Makin Island and USS Somerset entered the South China Sea on Sunday.

Three Chinese warships opened fire in an "unscripted" live-fire drill after the US vessels entered the disputed waters, USNI News reported. The US authorities said the amphibious ready group (ARG) was conducting routine operations in the region.

Chinese Navy's Type 056A corvettes Enshi, Yongzhou and Guangyuan were involved in the live-fire drills. According to China Central Television, the drills included missile interception and the taking down of a mock enemy warship.

'Muscle-Flexing Action'

The US warships' entry into the South China Sea was not announced by the U.S. Navy, the US Naval Institute website said. China, in turn, called the incident "a bluff and muscle-flexing action that pundits believe would damage regional stability."

South China Sea
China has increased its military and surveillance presence in South China Sea Wikimedia Commons

The amphibious warships of the US were transiting into the South China Sea past the Philippines when the incident occurred. However, Us officials said the warships did not meet with any unsafe situation and the Chinese vessels were hundreds of miles away when the live-fire drills happened.

The amphibious ready group (ARG) of the US is currently part of the U.S. 7th Fleet. "U.S. forces routinely operate in the region to include the South China Sea as we have for more than a century as a commitment to regional stability and a free and open Indo-Pacific," Pacific Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Myers Vasquez told USNI News.

While China lays claim to the whole of South China Sea, regional neighbors dispute Beijing's claims. Philippines and Vietnam have been at the receiving end of the Chinese aggression, while Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also have overlapping claims in the waters. The US routinely sends warships into the waters in order to push back against the Chinese territorial expansionism and to reaffirm 'freedom of navigation'. On its part, China sees the US moves as unwanted aggression that disturbs peace in the waters.