The US Navy sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the South China Sea after China "driven away" an American vessel from what Beijing considers to be its territorial seas.
USS Benfold, a guided-missile destroyer, was earlier engaged in a "freedom of navigation" mission close to the Paracel Islands, an archipelago between China and Vietnam, according to the United States.
According to the Chinese PLA, it "organized sea and air troops to pursue, monitor, warn, and drive away" the American ship.
It published images of the Benfold that were taken from the Chinese frigate Xianning's deck. Later, it was reported that an American carrier strike group was conducting security operations nearby.
Captain Fred Goldhammer, the commanding officer of the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, stated that "our presence in the South China Sea reflects America's commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific."
When the Benfold passed close to the Paracel Islands, Tian Junli, a spokesman for the PLA, reacted angrily and accused it of "seriously violating China's sovereignty and security."
"The facts once more demonstrate that the United States is nothing less than a security risk-maker in the South China Sea and a destroyer of regional peace and stability," said Tian.
The Chinese account of the mission was false, according to the US Navy, and it was just the most recent of Beijing's many attempts to "misrepresent lawful US maritime operations and assert its excessive and illegitimate maritime claims at the expense of its southeastern Asian neighbors in the South China Sea."
The U.S. ship allegedly entered China's territorial seas near the Paracel Islands, which are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan, in violation of Chinese law, according to the People's Liberation Army's Southern Theatre Command.
It continued, displaying images of the Benfold obtained from the deck of the Chinese frigate the Xianning, "The PLA's Southern Theatre Command organized maritime and air troops to pursue, monitor, warn, and drive away" the ship.
The facts once more demonstrate that the United States is a "destroyer of regional peace and stability" and a "security risk creator in the South China Sea."
The Chinese statement regarding the mission, according to the U.S. Navy, was "false" and the most recent in a long line of Chinese efforts to "misrepresent lawful U.S. maritime operations and assert its excessive and illegitimate maritime claims at the expense of its Southeastern Asian neighbors in the South China Sea."
Nothing China "says differently will dissuade us", the statement continued. "The United States is protecting every country's freedom to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows."
The Benfold, a 154-meter destroyer outfitted with ballistic and anti-ship missiles, was defending every nation's freedom to fly, sail, and conduct business anywhere international law permits, according to a spokesman for the US 7th Fleet. No matter what China says, we won't be deterred.
Four days had passed since Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, and Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, had a lengthy meeting in Bali that lasted more than five hours.
At the meeting, Wang urged the US to respect China's territorial integrity and sovereignty.
In 1974, China took over management of the Paracel Islands from the South Vietnamese government at the time.
The U.S. later that day released a different statement. The Navy said that the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group was engaged in "regular" carrier operations in the South China Sea.
The carrier group is carrying out maritime security activities, which also involve coordinated tactical training between surface and air units, maritime strike drills, and flight operations.
The South China Sea, a route for approximately $3 trillion in annual shipborne trade, was the subject of a judgment by an international tribunal that was overturned six years ago on Monday.
China has never accepted the ruling.
Almost the whole South China Sea is claimed by China. The claims of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei are all disputable and frequently overlap.
Airports have been constructed on several of China's South China Sea holdings, raising questions about Beijing's intentions in the region.