The United Kingdom will deploy its new aircraft carrier, loaded with two squadrons of F-35 aircraft into the politically-fraught South China Sea.
China has laid claim to almost all of the strategic South China Sea which is viewed as important for shipping lanes and potential resources.
On Sunday, United States destroyers USS Spruance and USS Preble sailed close to the Spratly Islands, territory disputed by China and the Philippines.
China claimed Monday that the ships entered without official permission but a spokesman for the US Navy’s 7th Fleet told CNN that the operation was to “challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law.”
China is in the process of developing its own aircraft carrier capability, with currently only one considered combat-ready.
According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) the country could have as many as 6 carriers by the 2030s.