Jan. 20 (UPI) -- The Chinese Ministry of Defense said the United States violated their nation's sovereignty when the USS Hopper reportedly maneuvered near a Chinese island in the South China Sea this week.
While speaking Saturday, ministry spokesman Wu Qian warned the U.S. against causing "trouble out of nothing." Wu said a Chinese missile destroyer had to drive off the USS Hopper, a U.S. guided missile destroyer, after the ship ventured near Huangyan Island, which is near the western coast of the Philippines.
The South China Morning Post reported another ministry spokesman said the Hopper was within 12 nautical miles of the island on Wednesday.
"China is strongly dissatisfied with the [U.S. action] and will take necessary measures to firmly safeguard its sovereignty," the second spokesman, Lu Kang, said.
A Southeast Asia affairs specialist at the Chinese Academy of Social Science told the Post that the encounter this week would mark the closest a U.S. destroyer has ever sailed to Chinese-claimed islands in the South China Sea.
"The South China Sea will be the ground on which the two powers will wrestle for military power," Zhang Jie said. "It has become a long-term conflict."
This week, the U.S. Defense Department issued a new National Defense Strategy, which maintained that the U.S. military advantage over China is "eroding."