According to experts, Beijing is now able to send combat aircraft and mobile rocket launchers to the islands at any time, fueling concerns that China could restrict free movement through a trade route worth around 5-trillion dollars a year.
Rich in resources and traversed by a quarter of global shipping, the South China Sea is the stage for several territorial disputes that threaten to escalate tensions in the region.
Yesterday's naval intrusion is another sign that Donald Trump's administration is frustrated by China's failure to force North Korea to abandon its nuclear and missile programs. Matt Knight spoke about the sail-by to USNI.
Bouchard is well familiar with that part of the globe, having commanded a Pacific Fleet based destroyer himself in the 80's. China rejected the ruling. "China has expressed its position to the US", CCTV state broadcaster reported Xi as saying.
The South China Sea dispute provides additional impetus for marine protection cooperation in the region.
Trump has stepped up pressure on Beijing in the last few days, alleging China has not made enough efforts to create pressure on North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs, reports said.
But China is used to U.S. forays and knows what to expect, said Termsak Chalermpalanupap, political and security affairs fellow with the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.
U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. The ships will also be open for visits by the public.
China has said previously it is within its rights to do as it pleases with the islands, which it considers Chinese territory.
Authorities in Vietnam's Quang Ngai province said a similar incident occurred on June 15, also involving a Vietnamese fishing boat near the Paracels, known as the Xisha Islands in China and Hoàng Sa in Vietnam.
Since October 2015, under the Obama Administration, US ships have been patrolling near the artificial islands built by China in the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea to demonstrate that they are located in international waters, not in Chinese waters - therefore angering Beijing. China claims to support freedom of navigation, but discriminates between civilian and military vessels.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the move was not a punishment for China's failure to rein in North Korea, and was focused on a single bank.
China's Ministry of National Defense issued a report accusing the U.S. of illegally trespassing "into China's territorial waters". Regional mechanisms for the protection and management of this shared marine environment need to be strengthened, despite conflicting jurisdictional and territorial claims.