The war of words between the United States and China has been amped up even more when on Thursday a Pentagon official stated while the US will seek common ground with China on North Korea and other issues, they will continue to protect their interests.

And the message was clear on what the United States claims are clear provocations by the Chinese in the South Pacific, especially in areas of the South China Sea.

“We continue to seek areas to cooperate with China where we can, but where we can’t we’re prepared to certainly protect both U.S. and allied interest in the region,” Director of the Joint Staff Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told reporters at the Pentagon.

“I would just tell you that the United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific taking down small islands,” McKenzie said, when asked if the United States has the ability to “blow apart” one of China’s disputed, man-made islands in the South China Sea.

He later clarified that he was referring to U.S. military operations during World War II.

“It’s just a fact we had a lot of experience in the Second World War taking down small islands that are isolated, so that’s a core competency of the U.S. military that we’ve done before. [You] shouldn’t read anything more into that than a simple statement of historical fact,” he said.

U.S. warships on Sunday cruised by disputed islands in the South China Sea in a planned exercise. The United States claims the area is considered international waters, while China asserts its right to the islands and saw the move as a threat.

The US Navy conducts what it terms “freedom of navigation” exercises in the disputed areas that Washington claims as international waters. The Chinese however, claim these as their own.

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