The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the two guided-missile destroyers travelled within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands.
The move angered Beijing at a time when the U.S. and China ton are locked in a trade war and are negotiating a deal ahead of a March 1 deadline when United States tariffs on $ 200 billion worth of Chinese imports are expected to increase to 25 per cent from 10 per cent. In January, China urged the U.S.to halt "provocative actions" after a USA guided-missile destroyer conducted sailed near the Paracel Islands, which are occupied by China and claimed by Vietnam.
"The relevant actions of the U.S. warships violated Chinese sovereignty and undermined peace, security, and order in the relevant sea areas". The deployment is seen as the latest attempt by Washington to stand up to what it believes are attempts by Beijing to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, where Chinese, Japanese and other Southeast Asian navies operate.
China on Monday accused the United States of trying to "stir up trouble" by sending two USA destroyers near disputed South China Sea islands.
"All operations are designed in accordance with global law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever worldwide law allows", Doss added, arguing "that is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe". Other regional nations-such as the Philippines and Vietnam-lay claim to part of the waterway and the US routinely pushes back against China by sending ships to patrol the sea.
During a South China Sea freedom-of-navigation operation in September, a Chinese destroyer challenged a US vessel to a showdown, forcing the US Navy ship off course and risking a deadly collision.
China defends its construction as necessary for self-defence and says it is the United States that is responsible for ratcheting up tensions in the region by sending warships and military planes close to islands Beijing claims.
Top US officials have attacked China for everything from human rights abuses to cyber espionage in America.
The two countries are also at loggerheads over regional security, with the United States offering support to the island nation of Taiwan, which China also claims as its own.