US sailors aboard Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett prepare to moor at Naval Base Guam for a scheduled port visit on August 4, 2017. Photograph: (AFP)
A US Navy destroyer came within twelve nautical miles of an artificial island built by China in the South China Sea, Reuters reported even as tensions between US and North Korea continued to grab world headlines.
This is not the first a US ship has sailed close to the disputed island in the South China Sea, last month the USS Stethem sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton island in the Paracel archipelago, which is claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan.
China called it a "serious political and military provocation".
US officials told Reuters the USS John S. McCain travelled close to Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, a disputed area claimed by China and its neighbours
Thursday's operation, reported by Reuters, was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing's efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, and comes as Trump is seeking China's cooperation to rein in North Korea.
The US administration has been prodding China to work with North Korea through its diplomatic channels to tone down Kim's nuclear ambitions but Pentagon officials, including President Trump have felt increasingly frustrated with Chinese officials.
US national security advisor Lt Gen H R McMaster had said recently that "China is not doing enough on North Korea which continues to violate international norms by conducting missile tests".
US President Donald Trump in a tweet had lashed out against China last month over its inability to curb North Korea's nuclear ambitions, saying,"I am very disappointed in China."
China's Defense Ministry said two Chinese warships "jumped into action" and warned the US ship to leave, labelling the move a "provocation" that seriously harms mutual trust, Reuters said.
"China is resolutely opposed to this kind of show of force and pushing of regional militarization by the US that may easily cause an unexpected incident at sea or in the air," Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.
China's foreign ministry said the operation had "violated international and Chinese law and seriously harmed Beijing's sovereignty and security".
"China is very displeased with this and will bring up the issue with the US side," the ministry added.