The encounter between the USA and Chinese Navies unfolded on Sunday morning when Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, sailing under the "freedom of navigation" principle, approached close to one of the Gaven Reefs in the Tizard Bank of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
"At approximately 0830 local time on September 30, a PRC LUYANG destroyer approached USS DECATUR in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea", U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Charlie Brown said in a statement.
One official said the Chinese destroyer came as close as 45 feet to the USS Decatur.
The Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy reportedly took on the US Navy in a showdown in the South China Sea on Sunday during a freedom-of-navigation operation involving the USS Decatur.
The 12-mile distance is commonly accepted as constituting the territorial waters of a landmass.
In addition, last week the B-52s also participated in a US-Japan joint military exercise in the East China Sea, where Tokyo and Beijing both claim sovereignty over the group of uninhabited Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.
"U.S. Navy ships and aircraft operate throughout the Indo-Pacific routinely, including in the South China Sea". The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have overlapping claims in the zone, where the U.S., Chinese, Japanese and some Southeast Asian navies also operate.
The Chinese Defense Ministry said Tuesday that one of its naval vessels had warned away the US ship.
In response, Chinese defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian said on Tuesday: "The US has been repeatedly sending warships to the islands and the adjacent waters in the South China Sea, which has seriously threatened China's sovereignty and safety".
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Nevertheless, China expanded some land features in the reefs through sand dredging in 2014 and 2015 and then militarized the reefs with anti-aircraft and naval guns and radars.
But China perceives the voyages as a provocation.
Tuesday's statement, unusual in clearly announcing the run-in with the Chinese vessel, reaffirmed that the USA would not halt its operations in the area.
The incident occurred amid growing tensions over tariffs and sanctions - and as the Decatur conducted a "freedom of navigation operation" in the disputed, strategic waterway, a Defense Department official told NBC News.
China said on Friday that it had conducted "live-fire shooting drills" in the South China Sea in a show of force in the contested region.
"Our forces will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere worldwide law allows", he said.
The military strain between the world's two largest economies has deepened even as they're locked in an increasingly heated trade war.
She said that such USA moves are against the common will of countries in the region and the basic global norms, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday.