Oct. 2 (UPI) -- Beijing accused the United States Tuesday of threatening its sovereignty by placing a warship near islands claimed by China in the disputed South China Sea.
"On September 30, without permission from the Chinese government, the destroyer USS Decatur sailed into waters close to China's Nansha Islands," China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Tuesday. "In response, the Chinese Navy identified and warned the ship to leave in accordance with laws.
"China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters."
The Pentagon defended the action Sunday as part of its freedom of navigation missions, which are meant to enforce the right of free passage for U.S. vessels in international waters as "routine" operations.
Chunying said the situation in the South China Sea has "become better" with regional support for its sovereignty and the United States is only making things worse by choosing "to ignore the shared will of regional countries and take on one provocative operation after another."
"It has, under the pretext of 'navigation and overflight freedom,' violated basic norms governing international relations, threatened China's sovereignty and security, and disturbed regional peace and stability. China is strongly dissatisfied with and firmly opposed to that," Chunying said. "We strongly urge the U.S. side to immediately correct its mistake and stop such provocative actions to avoid undermining China-US relations and regional peace and stability. The Chinese side will take all necessary measures to safeguard its national sovereignty and security."
The conflict stems from a U.S. Navy destroyer, USS Decatur conducting a freedom of navigation operation Sunday as it sailed near Gaven Reef in the Spratly Islands.
A Chinese warship came within 45 yards of the U.S. destroyer, forcing it to change course at it was passing disputed islands in the South China sea, a U.S. official said.
The Chinese destroyer confronted the U.S. Navy destroyer in "an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver," U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Tim Gorman said.