US operation came just hours before scheduled phone call between President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping

The passage of a US warship close to a disputed island in the South China Sea was a “serious political and military provocation”, Beijing said, one that could further strain relations between the superpowers

The destroyer, the USS Stethem, sailed less than 12 nautical miles from tiny Triton Island in the Paracel Islands archipelago, which is claimed by China as well as Taiwan and Vietnam, a US official said.

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