US destroyer NAVY South China Sea
© David Flewellyn/US Navy / Reuters
Guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin transits in formation with Japanese JS Kirisame vessel during bilateral training in South China Sea in 2015.
China's Foreign Ministry has slammed a claim by the United States that one of its warships was harassed by China in the South China Sea, insisting that Beijing holds "indisputable sovereignty" over its islands and surrounding waters there.

"The allegation by the United States is nothing but making an unfounded counter-charge," said China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang during a Tuesday press briefing. "China has an indisputable sovereignty over its islands and the surrounding waters on the South China Sea."

He further underlined Beijing's right to self-defense and self-protection under international law and rejected Washington's claims about Chinese aims to militarize the waters in the area.

"Like other countries, China is exercising its sovereignty and self-protection and self-defense to carry out activities for peaceful purposes, including necessary defense facilities, on its own territory. This has nothing to do with militarization," Lu added.

There have been reports that the administration of US President Donald Trump is making deliberate efforts to counter what it regards as years of unchecked Chinese aggression, pointing to a new era of potentially much colder ties between Washington and Beijing.

Citing interviews with senior White House and other US officials on Monday, major American daily The Wall Street Journal reported, "In the first 18 months of the administration, ties between the world's two biggest powers were defined by negotiations over how to restrain North Korea and ways to re-balance trade. Those high-profile endeavors masked White House preparations for a more hard-nosed stance with Beijing-a strategy now surfacing as China's help with Pyongyang wanes and trade talks stall."

The Chinese spokesman also emphasized, "There is no problem at all for freedom of navigation or flying over the South China Sea. But everybody has noticed in recent years that the United States, under the signboard of freedom of navigation and flight, frequently dispatches warplanes and warships to the South China Sea, closing in on China's islands and reefs and even crashing into the territorial waters of the Xisha Islands."

Lu went on to accuse Washington of provoking tensions and military confrontation in China's regional waters, saying: "The United States has sent warships thousands of miles from home to the door step of China to make troubles and, yet, it accused China of making troubles. It is logically absurd and ridiculous."

He further called on Washington to stop making troubles in area waters, adding: "We urge the United States to stop making troubles, stop creating tensions. We hope that the United States would respect the regional countries in their efforts to resolve issues through negotiations and safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea."

Moreover, the Chinese official demanded that the US halts its efforts "that jeopardize China's sovereignty and security interests," further calling on the Americans to "be a builder of peace and stability in the South China Sea but not a saboteur."

The Tuesday remarks by the Chinese official came after the country's foreign minister demanded last week that Washington stop its "misguided actions" towards Beijing amid deteriorating bilateral ties in the wake of a trade war and recent US claims of China's meddling in its upcoming midterm polls.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made the remarks as he received his US counterpart Mike Pompeo at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, where the two engaged in a bitter exchange of criticism, with Wang accusing Washington of making "a series of moves" on Taiwan and "other issues" that harm China's sovereignty.

"These actions have affected the mutual trust between both sides, and has cast a shadow over the prospect of China-US relations, which completely go against the interest of our two peoples," Wang said.