China laid sovereignty claims over dozens of locations in the contested South China Sea on Sunday, including islands, shoals, reefs, and mountain ridges.

China's Foreign Ministry has accused "certain US politicians" of attempting to interfere in the South China Sea issue, noting that such attempts are doomed to fail. Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang made the statement while speaking to reporters at a daily news briefing in Beijing.

The comment comes as Beijing issued a proclamation of sovereignty over dozens of geographical features in the disputed South China Sea.

Additionally, the US Navy on Wednesday announced that they had carried out flight operations over the sea for almost a week.

In the meantime, Taiwan's Defence Ministry has stated that a Chinese aircraft carrier group completed its mission in the South China Sea on Wednesday and is heading east through the Bashi Channel.

In recent decades, China has claimed sovereignty over large swathes of the South China Sea, with five other countries contesting Beijing’s claims, leading to political and military tensions between countries in the region.

Despite having no claims to the territories, the US is also actively engaged in the dispute, repeatedly sending its military vessels to the South China Sea to fulfil “freedom of navigation” missions. These draw harsh criticism from Beijing who describes such acts as “provocations".

Malaysia Fears Presence of Warships in South China Sea May Spike Tension

The South China Sea is a disputed region where overlapping claims are made by China, Vietnam, Brunei, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Malaysia. Earlier this week, Beijing issued a proclamation of sovereignty over dozens of geographical features in the South China Sea, weeks after Vietnam protested China’s right to do so.

Stating that its position on the South China Sea is consistent and clear, the Foreign Ministry of Malaysia on Thursday said that the presence of warships and vessels in the region has the potential to increase tensions that in turn may result in a miscalculation. The statement comes after the US and Australia joined a survey ship deployed by Malaysia amid the assertive approach of China in the region.

Malaysia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Y.B. Dato' Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said in a press statement: “I am deeply aware and conscious of the situation. We must avoid unintended, accidental incidents in these waters. While international laws guarantee the freedom of navigation, the presence of warships and vessels in the South China Sea has the potential to increase tension that in turn may result in miscalculation which may affect peace, security and stability in the region”.

Earlier this week, Australian frigate the HMAS Parramatta joined three US warships already carrying out a drill near a Chinese survey ship that is reportedly exploring oil in the region.

Asking all parties to work together in order to enhance mutual trust and confidence to maintain peace and stability in the region, the nation emphasised that it remains firm in its commitment to safeguard its interests in the region.

“Malaysia hold the view that South China Sea should remain a sea of peace and trade. Thus, matters relating to the South China Sea must be resolved peacefully based on the principles of international law, including the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982”, the ministry stated. The Southeast Asian country made it clear that it has been in open and continuous communication with all the relevant parties, including the People’s Republic of China and the United States of America.

Earlier, on Sunday, China’s Natural Resources Ministry and Civil Affairs Ministry published a joint release claiming sovereignty over 25 islands, shoals, and reefs, as well as 55 submerged oceanic mountains and ridges, all in the contested waterway south of the mainland.

The South China Sea is a resource-rich marine region that has an abundance of gas and oil. The Spratly Islands and Paracel Islands are among the more frequently disputed territories in the area and are contested by Beijing, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan.

India's External Affairs Ministry has also maintained that India stands for a peaceful resolution of the disputes in the region with respect for legal and diplomatic processes.

US Warship Transits Taiwan Strait For the Second Time in One Month

China has repeatedly criticized the US for sailing its warships through the Taiwan Strait, characterizing the transits as "dangerous" behaviour that "severely harms peace and stability" in the region.

A US warship passed through the Taiwan Strait for a second time in a month, the US Pacific fleet confirmed on Thursday.

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said the US warship sailed south through the Taiwan Strait that separates the island from mainland China. The guided-missile destroyer USS Barry was said to be on "an ordinary mission" and conducting a "routine Taiwan Strait transit" in accordance with international law, according to Lt. Anthony Junco, a US Seventh Fleet spokesman.

"The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The U.S. Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows," he said, cited by Reuters.

This is the second time the USS Barry has sailed through the Taiwan Strait in recent weeks, previously taking this route two weeks ago on the same day that Chinese fighter jets drilled in waters close to Taiwan.

On Thursday, Taipei confirmed that a Chinese aircraft carrier group had sailed to the south of the island, through the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines, heading east. In recent months, China has carried out multiple drills near Taiwan, including with the use of jets and nuclear bombers, described by Taipei as efforts by Beijing to intimidate. 

Taiwan has been governed independently from China since 1949. Beijing considers the island as part of the mainland, while Taiwan insists on being an autonomous country, having established political and economic relations with several other countries that recognize its sovereignity.