US Navy destroyer conducts operation in South China Sea

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The US is attempting to stir up troubles in the waters where the situation has cooled down, Geng said, adding that the warship's intrusion showed "who is exactly the one that does not want to see sustained stability in the South China Sea, and who serves as the biggest factor in the "militarisation" of the South China Sea".

The official said Chinese vessels were in the vicinity when the destroyer USS John S. McCain sailed in a "routine" freedom of navigation operation near Mischief Reef on Thursday.

But China scoffed at the United States, calling the move a "provocation" that could seriously damage the two countries' strategic trust and also create difficulties and obstacles for their defence forces, Reuters reported.

It comes amid soaring tensions on the Korean Peninsula over Kim Jong-un's missile programme, and as the United Nations is urging China to increase pressure on North Korea.

A Chinese defense spokesman said at the time "the parties concerned don't need to overreact and make a great fuss about it".

The US has maintained that the South China Sea is worldwide water, and that sovereignty in the area should be determined by the UNCLOS. He is the author of "Asia's New Battlefield: U.S., China and the Struggle for the Western Pacific", and the forthcoming book "Rise of Duterte".

China's Defense Ministry said two Chinese warships "jumped into action" and warned the United States ship to leave, labelling the move a "provocation" that seriously harms mutual trust, Reuters said.

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The U.S. destroyer sailed 6 nautical miles past Mischief Reef Thursday as part of a freedom of navigation operation in worldwide waters, a U.S. navy official said on condition of anonymity.

Geng reiterated that the U.S. provocation would force China to take further measures to strengthen homeland defense capacity.

Beijing claims a massive section of the South China Sea that extends roughly 1,000 miles from its southern shores.

In a statement Friday, August 11, the DFA explained that the Philippines' position on the South China Sea dispute "is always based on the latest intelligence we have on the ground".

A dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea continues to boil between the two Asian giants. "The Chinese military is firmly opposed to such flaunting of force and promotion of militarization in the region by the USA, which could easily trigger accidents at sea and in the air".

This amounts to an explicit recognition that the Philippines is toeing China's line as ASEAN's chair. US officials say the military will continue to sail, fly and operate wherever permitted by worldwide law.

China claims almost all of the strategically vital sea, through which $5 trillion in annual shipping trade passes and is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits. "We would like to assure the public that if ever there are reports to the contrary, these will be carefully studied, verified and handled accordingly", DFA said. "Brunei claims an exclusive economic zone over this area", the CIA Factbook says.