“China strongly urges the British side to immediately stop such provocative actions, to avoid harming the broader picture of bilateral relations and regional peace and stability,” it said.
“China will continue to take all necessary measures to defend its sovereignty and security.”
Nick Childs of the International Institute for Strategic Studies said the Chinese Navy was becoming more assertive and regularly shadowed vessels in the South China Sea.
“No side has much to gain by deliberately sparking a clash, but the balance of power has definitely shifted towards China,” he said.
“The maritime domain has become increasingly contested globally,” he says and suggests the incremental development and militarisation of islands in the region by China will only increase tension.
A Royal Navy Spokesperson said: “HMS Albion exercised her rights for freedom of navigation in full compliance with international law and norms.”
A source told Reuters that the Albion did not enter the territorial seas around any features in the hotly disputed region but demonstrated that Britain does not recognise excessive maritime claims around the Paracel Islands. Twelve nautical miles is an internationally recognised territorial limit.
The Paracels are occupied entirely by China but also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.
A spokesman for the Royal Navy said: “HMS Albion exercised her rights for freedom of navigation in full compliance with international law and norms.”