Another US warship, USS McCampbell, sailed within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometres) of the Paracel Islands chain - north of the Spratly Islands - on January 7 during a previous round of trade talks between the two countries.
The Spratly Islands are a disputed group of islands, islets and cays and more than 100 reefs, sometimes grouped in submerged old atolls, in the South China Sea.
"China has always respected and safeguarded freedom of navigation and flight based on worldwide laws in the South China Sea, but resolutely opposes any country falsely using these harm the sovereignty and security of coastal countries". 'The Chinese side expresses strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition'.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet confirmed the FONOP Monday afternoon with worldwide media, stating that the operation was conducted "to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by global law".
China firmly opposed the relevant action and urged the U.S.to immediately stop its provocations, Hua stressed. 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 claims nearly all of the strategic South China Sea and frequently lambastes the United States and its allies over naval operations near Chinese-occupied islands.
An unnamed U.S. official told Reuters on Monday that the two destroyers conducted a freedom of navigation exercise - the second by the United States in the region this year - within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, where Beijing has purportedly built military facilities. The Navy has carried out several FONOPS in the South China Sea in recent years, where China has built artificial islands and air strips and installed other military capabilities.
It has claimed the United States is responsible for ratcheting up war fears in the region by sending warships and military planes close to territory China believes it is entitled to.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it.
The two countries are also at odds over regional security, including Washington's overtures to the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own.