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China's Ministry of National Defense said Friday that China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and it firmly opposes the US' muscle-flexing in the region, in response to the US sending a destroyer to the South China Sea on Thursday.

"China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters… the Chinese military firmly opposes the US flexing its muscles and promoting militarization in the region, which may easily trigger incidents," Chinese defense ministry spokesperson Senior Colonel Wu Qian said in a statement released on the ministry's WeChat account on Friday.

US officials were quoted by Reuters as saying that the USS John S. McCain had sailed close to Meiji Reef in the Nansha Islands on Thursday, the third "freedom of navigation operation" conducted since President Donald Trump took office.

Wu said that China sent warships to drive away the US destroyer.

"The US destroyer's actions have violated Chinese and international laws, as well as severely harmed China's sovereignty and security," China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said late on Thursday.

"The frequent US presence in the South China Sea shows that it is the troublemaker and it is undermining regional stability," said Zhang Junshe, a senior research fellow at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute on Thursday.

The situation in the South China Sea is now heading in a positive direction due to the joint efforts of China and neighboring countries. The US sending a destroyer to the region in the name of "freedom of navigation" severely threatens China's sovereignty and security interests, damages regional peace and stability, and endangers the safety of personnel on both sides, Wu said.

He also noted that the US should stop provocations which have undermined mutual trust and created obstacles to bilateral exchanges.

"The US provocations can only push the Chinese military to further strengthen its defensive capabilities to firmly safeguard national integrity and security," Wu said.

The foreign ministry made similar remarks on Thursday night.

Liu Feng, a Hainan-based expert on the South China Sea, told the Global Times on Friday that the Trump administration is continuing the strategy of former president Barack Obama in an effort to impose its presence in the Asia-Pacific. 

"The US needs to increase its visible presence in the South China Sea to draw Vietnam to its side after China and the Philippines have made progress over their maritime disputes," Liu said.

Foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China approved the framework of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea on August 6, which will help maintain stability in the region, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

A scheduled meeting between the foreign ministers of China and Vietnam was canceled on the sidelines of the ASEAN meetings with no reason given, Reuters reported.

Liu said that a peaceful South China Sea is the last thing the US wants to see, and it would stir up troubles in an effort to force China to compromise in other areas.

He believes that the US has especially chosen this time to make its provocations, as China is also occupied with the China-India border standoff to the southwest, and to the northeast, tensions are still rising over the North Korean nuclear issue.

Zhang agreed, saying that the US wants to use its military operations in the South China Sea as a bargaining chip to force China's hand on other issues.

"The US' ill-advised strategy lies at the heart of the North Korea issue. China has firmly implemented the UN Security Council resolutions," Zhang said, adding that China's role in solving the problem has been noted and it will not trade with other countries.