Such actions cause forces from both countries to come into close proximity and could easily cause a misjudgment or accident, and create serious political and military provocation for China, the ministry said. Nicole Schwegman, US Pacific Fleet spokeswoman, said.
A USA guided-missile destroyer carried out a freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) near an artificial island controlled by China on Friday.
US President Donald Trump has been seeking to persuade South-East Asian countries to stand up to China in an ongoing dispute over territorial rights to hydrocarbons in the South China Sea, where there are competing claims to the Spratly islands.
The Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang warned that continued USA patrols in the waterway "harm military relations between the two countries, causing close encounters between the countries' air forces and navies, which could lead to misjudgment and even accidents". Mischief Reef is one of seven artificial islands built up by China in recent years to press their territorial claims to the island chain.
In its own statement late Friday, China's defense ministry said two Chinese Navy ships "took immediate action to identify and verify the US ship, and warned and dispelled it".
Even as the world focused on the impending trade war between the USA and China, tension escalated in the disputed South China Sea region where the United States on Friday, March 23, conducted its first freedom of navigation operation since January, inviting Beijing's wrath.
"All operations are designed in accordance with global law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever worldwide law allows", she told CNN.
Taiwan's defense ministry said this week it had shadowed a Chinese aircraft carrier group traversing the Taiwan Strait in a southwesterly direction - meaning into the disputed South China Sea - in what Taiwan judged to be a drill.
The Chinese Defense Ministry claimed that USS Mustin was "warned off" by two Chinese frigates as it approached.
According to state media, the navy will hold the drills "in the near future" but didn't elaborate further on their timing or what they would entail.
It said the drills are "a routine part of the navy's annual training plan" meant to boost troops' training and hone their combat capabilities.
Correction: The story has been corrected to state that U.S. defense officials confirmed the operation Friday. "It is not aimed at any specific country or target", the newspaper reported.
Washington took a counter dig at Beijing over the latter's man-made islands in the South China Sea - some of which have military bases and weapons.
This story was first published on CNN.com, "US destroyer sails close to contested island in South China Sea".