China voiced strong protest against a US Navy warship passing close to the Meiji Reef in the South China Sea. “The USS Dewey illegally entered the waters near the island on early Thursday without permission of the Chinese government,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang at a press briefing on Thursday. “Such moves have undermined China’s sovereignty and security, and were very likely to cause unexpected air and sea accidents.”

The Chinese Navy identified the US warship, warned and expelled it, Lu said.

“China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and its adjacent waters. However, we firmly oppose any country damaging China’s sovereignty and security in the name of navigation and overflight freedom,” Lu said.

Lu said the situation in the South China Sea has improved and shown positive development momentum, adding that the US acts have severely disrupted negotiations between all parties concerned.

“China is resolute in its determination to maintain sovereignty, security, and maritime interests,” he said, urging the US side to correct its mistakes, stop provocation and not harm regional peace and stability as well as China-US cooperation.

Also on Thursday, spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defence Ren Guoqiang said that guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey sailed into the waters close to the reefs off China’s Nansha Islands without permission from China, and Chinese missile frigates Liuzhou and Luzhou “warned and expelled” the US ship after identifying it.