"China holds indisputable sovereignty over Nansha Islands and surrounding waters", the Chinese Defense Ministry said early Friday.
China rejects claims made by US President Donald Trump that it is not doing enough to pressure Pyongyang to halt its rocket development.
The United States and its regional allies have accused Beijing of inflaming tensions in the South China Sea by expanding islands and reefs into military installations, refusing multilateral negotiations over overlapping territorial claims and spurning a ruling a year ago from an global tribunal that rejected the legality of China's claims to much of the sea.
It was the third "freedom of navigation operation" during Trump's presidency.
McCain, a guided-missile destroyer, illegally entered the waters near the reef and conducted a so-called "freedom of navigation operation" on Thursday without permission of the Chinese government, Xinhua quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang as saying. Ongoing tensions in the South China Sea, on the Chinese-Indian border and on the Korean Peninsula will continue to produce new avenues of friction. This is partly because not all 10 members are claimants to the South China Sea.
Beijing claims a massive section of the South China Sea that extends roughly 1,000 miles from its southern shores.
Twelve nautical miles marks the territorial limits recognized internationally. This strategy of containment and encirclement assumes that even the U.S. -Russia rift might be transcended to constrain China's geostrategic dominance in the Asia-Pacific through collaboration with Moscow.
It's part of the Spratly Islands, where China has built artificial islands to shore up its claim.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak to the press about the matter.More news: Tony Pulis signs two-year contract extension with West Brom
More news: What you need to know about the total solar eclipse
More news: Trump makes false claims about United States nuclear arsenal
"They called and said "please turn around, you are in our waters", the official said. Therefore, China's crystallizing dominance in global production and trade networks, as well as their further extension into Eurasia through grand projects such as the Belt and Road initiative are seen as real national security challenges for the U.S. Likewise, China's massive military investments in state-of-the-art aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and stealth fighters are interpreted as part of a systematic endeavor to balance and surpass the worldwide influence of the U.S. Indeed, Philippine Foreign Minister Alan Peter Cayetano said in apparent response, "We appreciate not being told what to do".
The destroyer passed within 12 nautical miles of both land features, according to Reuters, in a "freedom of navigation operation" or FONOP, whereby the USA shows China it doesn't respect its maritime claims in the South China Sea.
He also insisted that such operations "seriously endanger lives".
Indeed, Duterte criticized the United States for pushing the Philippines to raise the arbitral tribunal ruling with China when it did not send troops to help protect its islands in the South China Sea from Beijing's reclamation activities.
Its sweeping claims overlap with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei - all ASEAN members - as well as Taiwan.
But the approved ASEAN-China agreed framework for negotiation of a COC did not mention the need to have it be legally binding, enforceable, or contain a dispute resolution mechanism.
However, it is far from clear what the point would be of such a normative Code of Conduct, which would be along the lines of an existing 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and a Treaty of Amity and Cooperation.
The statement Friday does not mention any specific actions China would be willing to take, although some Chinese scholars and state media have called on Beijing to take on a shuttle diplomacy role to facilitate talks between the USA and North Korea.
China's Defense Ministry said two Chinese warships "jumped into action" and warned the USA ship to leave, labelling the move a "provocation" that seriously harms mutual trust, Reuters said.