A Navy warship conducted an operation to contest China's claims of controlling international waters in the South China Sea, the Pacific Fleet said Monday.
China responded by sending ships and aircraft to confront the vessel, the Chinese Foreign Minister said.
Lt. Rachel McMarr, a Fleet spokeswoman, said the guided missile destroyer USS McCampbell conducted a freedom of navigation operation on Monday by sailing within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands.
The operation was designed to "challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law," she said in a statement.
Passage within 12 nautical miles of a disputed island, as the McCampbell did, is a direct challenge and usually involves some type of military maneuver. McMarr and a Pentagon spokesman did not say whether the warship conducted activities inside the 12-nautical mile limit of the Paracels.