Beijing reacted angrily Tuesday to a decision by the U.S. Navy to sail a guided-missile destroyer within 12 miles of artificial islands under construction by China in the South China Sea.

The USS Lassen sailed within the presumed territorial limits around the new islands at Subi and Mischief reefs. Those reefs are among seven oceanic features in the disputed South China Sea where China is dredging sand and building major land-based facilities — including long runways and deep-water ports.

China’s Foreign Ministry was quick to condemn the U.S. action Tuesday, saying the ship’s actions were illegal and that the move threatened regional peace as well asU.S.-China relations.

“The actions of the U.S. warship have threatened China’s sovereignty and security interests, jeopardized the safety of personnel and facilities on the reefs, and damaged regional peace and stability,” the ministry said on its website. “The Chinese side expresses its strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition,” the statement added.

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