China, Washington's main rival for influence in the Asia-Pacific, has seized on the collision of a U.S. destroyer to accuse the Navy of endangering maritime navigation in the region.

A string of accidents this year shows the U.S. Navy "is becoming a dangerous obstacle in Asian waters," the official China Daily newspaper said in its online edition.

"The U.S. Navy, which likes to claim its presence can help safeguard `freedom of navigation' in the South China Sea, is proving to be an increasing hindrance to ships sailing in Asian waters," the newspaper said in an unsigned editorial.

The USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker on Monday as it was heading to Singapore on a routine port visit after conducting a sensitive freedom-of-navigation operation last week by sailing near one of China's man-made islands in the South China Sea.

China's claims to most of the South China Sea have resulted in territorial disputes with several Southeast Asian nations and prompted international concern about its militarization of waters that are a vital route for global trade.

"Anyone should be able to tell who is to blame for militarizing the waters and posing a threat to navigation," the newspaper said.