US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned China to stop intimidating states around the South China Sea. He called on Beijing to cease its "provocative behavior."
Blinken released a statement marking the fifth anniversary of a ruling that rejected China's claims to much of the sea.
Philippine leaders had accused the Chinese of building an island in their waters and threatening their ships. Officials in Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam also lay claim to the sea.
US naval commanders said they are committed to upholding freedom of navigation. A US destroyer steamed through the area after Blinken released the statement.
Chinese military leaders responded by sending their forces to "warn and drive it away." Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the US is sowing discord in the region while undermining peace and stability.