A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement that the USS John S. McCain had violated Chinese and international law, undermined Chinese sovereignty and security, and endangered the safety of frontline personnel.
The Chinese navy "identified the U.S. warship, warned and expelled it,'' the spokesman said.
The U.S. destroyer sailed 6 nautical miles past Mischief Reef Thursday as part of a freedom of navigation operation in international waters, a U.S. navy official said on condition of anonymity.
The freedom of navigation operation was the third that the United States has carried out since President Donald Trump took office in January. U.S. officials say the military will continue to sail, fly and operate wherever permitted by international law.
China, which claims virtually the entire South China Sea, routinely protests such operations.