CNN reported a U.S. military warship was sent within 12 nautical miles of one of China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea on Tuesday.
The area is contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam because of the large potential for oil development.
A U.S. defence official said the destroyer was conducting a “transit” through the Spratly Islands but China believes this to be a challenge of its territorial sovereignty and warned and tracked the vessel.
The U.S. does not recognize the man-made islands as being a part of Chinese territory.
Sino-American relations are changing.
"China-U.S. relations are highly interdependent economically, and are not bad in culture, education etc.," said Alistair Edgar, a political science professor at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Still, "there are specific issues that cause problems such as hacking from China aimed at U.S. industry, government and other targets and China's challenge to U.S. naval influence in the South China Sea," said Edgar, who is also the executive director of the academic council on the UN System.
There is also the fact that China has recently opened a new financial institution and will continue to expand economically, said Edgar.
The transit was approved by U.S. President Barack Obama and was the first since China began dredging operations to transform the reefs into islands in 2014.
China has accumulated more than 800 hectares in less than two years through developing the Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross reefs.
"China has grown in economic power and also consequently in its economic needs so it is searching for new ways to meet its own interests; and this has it running up against the U.S. as well as others," said Edgar.
Edgar also pointed out that while the U.S. has many allies in the region, China has one (North Korea).
Wang Yi, China's foreign minister, said in a CNN report, “we advise the U.S. side to think twice before action, not to conduct any rash action, and not to create trouble out of nothing."
Conflict could be avoided as long as both sides refrain from directly occupying the disputed territory or engaging each other militarily, said Edgar.
China denies the illegality of its operations in the South China Sea.
Free trade could decrease the level of aggression towards accumulating the resources however China is not a part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and refuses to open its markets, said Edgar.