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

"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".

The warship spat comes as a war of words between the USA and North Korea escalates and President Donald Trump pushes China to do more to reign in Pyongyang's threats.

"And the point of that is to demonstrate that the United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever worldwide law allows".

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea and is now building multiple artificial islands in the area to control them as more than half of the world s annual cargo fleet passes through it.

China is reported to be inching a step closer to military dominance in the hotly-contested waters as it has continued to build missile shelters on Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi Reefs in the Spratly archipelago, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), which is part of Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies.

China is tangled in a web of territorial disputes in the South China Sea with five other regional nations, which also include Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.

The sprawling base on the coast of the South China Sea is one of PLAN's three major bases, and PLAN is now poised for major expansion.

He also voiced resentment at a call by Australia, Japan and the United States to enforce the arbitral ruling and for a legally binding code of conduct in the vital sea lanes, saying: "The problem of territorial dispute is between Philippines and China".

Tensions in the region escalated after China began to turn seven reefs in the Spratly group, including Mischief, which is also claimed by USA defence treaty ally the Philippines, into islands, including three with runways.

Washington's critical actions came as it courts the help of China, North Korea's most important economic partner, in taming Pyongyang's nuclear weapons ambitions and ending its missile tests.

"We told them we are a U.S. (ship) conducting routine operations in global waters", the official added. "And that there is this freedom of navigation", he said.

BEIJING-China expressed its "strong dissatisfaction" with the US over the Navy's latest freedom of navigation operation in which a warship sailed past one of China's man-made islands in the strategic South China Sea.

A scheduled meeting between Chinese and Vietnamese foreign ministers on the sidelines of the summit was canceled.

Beijing has reclaimed land in massive dredging operations, turning sandbars into islands equipped with airfields, ports and lighthouses.

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