China's Ministry of National Defence says it has continued to monitor the US Navy destroyer USS Milius in a second straight day as US asserts navigational rights in international waters.
China's defence ministry has said that it yet again had to monitor and drive away the US Navy destroyer USS Milius that entered territorial waters it claims in the South China Sea near the Paracel Islands.
"We sternly demand the US to immediately stop such provocative acts, otherwise it will bear the serious consequences of unforeseen incidents," a spokesperson said on Friday in a statement from the Ministry of National Defence.
The US Navy said the guided-missile destroyer was asserting its navigational rights and freedoms in international waters.
"Unlawful and sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea pose a serious threat to the freedom of the seas, including the freedoms of navigation and overflight, free trade and unimpeded commerce, and freedom of economic opportunity for South China Sea littoral nations," the US Navy 7th fleet said in an emailed statement.
US forces operate in the South China Sea on a daily basis, the US Navy said.
It was the second straight day of a stand-off between the two super powers amid growing tensions in the South China Sea.
READ MORE: US denies Chinese claim it drove away American ship in the South China Sea
On Thursday, Colonel Tian Junli, a spokesperson for China’s Southern Theatre Command, said that the Chinese navy monitored and expelled the USS Milius after it "illegally entered China's Xisha territorial waters (waters around the Paracel Islands) without approval from the Chinese government, undermining peace and stability in the South China Sea."
The US Navy's 7th Fleet said that the USS Milius was not expelled and was conducting routine operations in international waters.
The incident comes amid growing tensions between China and the United States in the region, as Washington pushes back at Beijing's growingly assertive posture in the South China Sea and elsewhere.
China claims ownership over virtually the entire strategic waterway, through which around $5 trillion in global trade transits each year and which holds highly valuable fish stocks and undersea mineral resources.
The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also have competing claims.
The US itself has no claims to the waters, but has deployed Navy and Air Force assets to patrol the waterway for decades and says freedom of navigation and overflight is in the American national interest.
China has frequently accused the US of meddling in Asian affairs and demanding it leaves the region where it has had a naval presence for more than a century.
READ MORE: Japan, Philippines eye further defence cooperation to counter China