China slams US warship for 'provocative' transit through South China Sea, calling it 'maritime hegemony'

China hit back at the U.S. on Wednesday after a Navy warship sailed near disputed islands China has claimed as its own in the South China Sea, calling the action “provocative” and a sign of “maritime hegemony.”

The USS Wayne E. Meyer guided-missile destroyer conducted a freedom-of-navigation operation and sailed within 12 nautical miles, or 14 miles, off Fiery Cross and Mischief reefs, both part of the Spratly Islands archipelago that China has militarized.

Brunei, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claimed some of the islands.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) in the South China Sea in 2011. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Justin E. Yarborough, File)

The guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) in the South China Sea in 2011. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Justin E. Yarborough, File)

“The facts prove that the United States’ so-called ‘freedom of navigation’ is actually an assertion of maritime hegemony that ignores international law, seriously harms China’s sovereignty and security interests, and seriously harms peace and stability in the South China Sea region,” Chinese military spokesman Li Huamin said.

WHITE HOUSE SLAMS CHINA’S ‘HIGHLY DUBIOUS’ INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECT AS BOLTON WARNS UKRAINE

“We urge the U.S. side to immediately stop such kinds of provocative acts, to avoid causing unexpected incidents,” he added, as Reuters reported.

The South China Sea, considered international waters, has played a crucial role in trade; one-third of the world’s shipping passes through it annually.

CHINA ANNOUNCES IT SEEKS ‘CALM’ END TO TRADE WAR, AS MARKETS TANK AND CURRENCY HITS 11-YEAR FLATLINE

U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet spokeswoman Cmdr. Reann Mommsen confirmed the operation, saying it was conducted “to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law.”

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile cruiser USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) transiting the Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Z.A. Landers, File)

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile cruiser USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) transiting the Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Z.A. Landers, File)

“U.S. forces operate in the Indo-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea,” the Seventh Fleet said in a statement reported by USNI News.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

“All operations are designed in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows. That is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe,” the fleet said. “We conduct routine and regular freedom-of-navigation operations (FONOPs) as we have done in the past and will continue to in the future. FONOPs are not about any one country, nor are they about making political statements.”

The United States has conducted four FONOPs in the South China Sea so far this year.