BEIJING: The Chinese military warned a US naval ship to leave waters in the disputed South China Sea on March 23. It has been denied by American forces as false.
China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea - a strategic waterway through which trillions of dollars in trade pass annually - despite an international court ruling that the assertion has no legal basis.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei all have overlapping claims in the sea, while the United States sends naval vessels through it to assert freedom of navigation in international waters.
The Southern Theater Command of China's People's Liberation Army PLA said the USS Milius, a guided missile destroyer, entered waters around the Paracel Islands, which are also claimed by Vietnam.
The PLA ordered air and sea forces to track and monitor the ship, in accordance with the law, and warned it to leave spokesman Tian Junli said.
He said that the vessel made an illegal incursion into Chinese territorial waters without permission from the Chinese government, harming peace and stability in the region.
The US military quickly denied the claims, telling AFP that the PRC's statement is false, using the acronym for the People's Republic of China.
A spokesman for the US's Indo-Pacific Command said the vessel is conducting routine operations in the South China Sea and was not expelled.
The United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, the spokesperson said.
Chinese authorities have built artificial islands, some with military facilities and runways, while asserting their claims in the South China Sea.
Chinese vessels have been accused of harassing their fishing boats, according to regional nations.