The Chinese government charged on Thursday that a US warship had entered its waters in the South China Sea “without permission”, prompting Beijing’s navy to warn the vessel to leave.

The USS Dewey sailed less than 12 nautical miles from Mischief Reef — part of the Spratly Islands — on Thursday morning local time, a US official said earlier, the first freedom of navigation operation under President Donald Trump.

“The relevant action taken by the US vessel undermines China’s sovereignty and security interests,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a press briefing.

“We urge the US to correct this mistake,” he said.

USS Dewey. File photo: Wikicommons.

“Stop taking further provocative actions that hurt China’s sovereignty and maritime interests, so as to avoid hurting peace and security of the region and long term cooperation between the two countries.”

The incident broke a period of friendly exchanges between China and the United States after presidents Xi Jinping and Trump met in April.

Lu said the USS Dewey, a guided-missile destroyer, had “trespassed in the waters near relevant islands and reefs” of the Spratly Islands “without permission from the Chinese government”.

The Chinese navy identified the US warship “in accordance with the law and warned it to leave,” the spokesman said.

Lu said the US warship’s move comes as the situation in the South China Sea “is cooling down and showing positive signs of development” thanks to the concerted efforts of Beijing and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“But what the US has done is cause severe disruptions to this process of dialogue and consultation.”

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