A U.S. Navy destroyer carried out a "freedom of navigation operation" on Thursday, coming within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea, U.S. officials told Reuters.
McCain, a guided-missile destroyer, illegally entered the waters near the reef and conducted a so-called "freedom of navigation operation" on Thursday without permission of the Chinese government, Xinhua quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang as saying.
It continued that the U.S. sailing had violated both worldwide and Chinese law and, at the same time, had posed a threat to Beijing's security and sovereignty.
"It would be best if this apparent evidence can be vetted for accuracy if only to prove the trust and confidence that all disputants over the territory in South China Sea.need to have in each other moving forward", said President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman.
The operation comes four days after the US, Australia, and Japan denounced China's island-building and militarisation of the South China Sea on the sidelines of a security forum of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the Philippine capital, Manila.
"China is strongly dissatisfied with this", Geng said in a statement, adding Beijing would lodge an official protest with Washington.
The reef is part of the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, which is the scene of rival claims between China and neighbouring countries. China has used dredged sand to expand the original reef into an artificial island big enough to hold an airstrip.
The US supports neither nation's claims and insists that the sea should be a neutral space available for free navigation.
It's the third time the Pentagon has conducted a "freedom of navigation" challenging China's claims in the region since President Trump took office.
On that occasion China accused America of "trespass" and deployed their military in a sabre-rattling attempt to scare the navy off.
On Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert was asked at a briefing whether "freedom of navigation" and other issues serve to "make for a more hard campaign on North Korea with China".
But Nicole Schwegman, spokeswoman for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said that USA forces operated in the Asia Pacific region on a daily basis.
"They happen off the coast of Canada" and "in the waters off shore of our major allies, friends, partners all around the world", she said.
AFP comments that in recent years Beijing has managed to weaken regional resistance to its South China Sea claims by courting some ASEAN members.
China's "nine-dash line" - its claimed territorial waters that extend hundreds of miles to the south and east of its island province of Hainan - abut its neighbors' claims and, in some cases, encroach upon them.
This, after the Asian Maritime Transparency Institute (AMTI) in Washington D.C. published photos Wednesday showing continuing land reclamation in the South China Sea. "All operations are conducted in accordance with worldwide law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever global law allows".