Beijing has reportedly dispatched a frigate and two helicopters to escort the Royal Navy's HMS Albion through the South China Sea, after the assault ship performed a "freedom of navigation" stunt on its patrol of the Asia Pacific.
Beijing accused the HMS Albion of "provocative actions" after the vessel, carrying a contingent of Royal Marines, used freedom of navigation rights to pass near the Paracel Islands last month.
The HMS Albion sailed close to the Paracel Islands on August 31, according to Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for China's Foreign Ministry.
Hua said the United Kingdom ship's passage past the Paracels had "violated China's territorial sovereignty", adding that China had expressed its "strong dissatisfaction" to London.
China strongly opposes this and has lodged stern representations with the British side to express strong dissatisfaction.
The group of more than 30 islands, known in Chinese as Xisha, is now controlled by China but also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.
"China strongly urges Britain to stop such provocations immediately so as not to damage the overall situation of bilateral relations and regional peace and stability".
The Royal Navy said it was conducting a freedom of navigation exercise "in full compliance with worldwide law".
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China's claims in the South China Sea, which sees some $3 trillion (£2.3 trillion) of trade every year, are also contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
China claims by far the largest portion of territory - an area defined by the "nine-dash line" which stretches hundreds of miles south and east from its most southerly province of Hainan.
The US and its allies have in recent times sent planes and warships to the area for "freedom of navigation" operations intended as a signal to Beijing of their right - claimed under global law - to pass through the contested waters.
Both Britain and the United States say they conduct FONOP operations throughout the world, including in areas claimed by allies. Under the Trump administration, the freedom of navigation operations have increased in the region.
Foreign aircraft and vessels in the region are routinely challenged by Chinese naval ships and monitoring stations on the fortified islands, sources have said previously.
However, a landmark judgement at the Hague in 2016 criticised Chinese actions in the South China Sea and found no basis for its sweeping historical claims. Both Britain and the U.S. conduct such operations throughout the world.
Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, said in June that deployment of the three ships was meant to send the "strongest of signals" on the importance of freedom of navigation.
It followed warnings to China by US Secretary of Defence, James Mattis, of "consequences" if it continued to militarise the South China Sea.