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USS Stethem (DDG 63) destroyer vessel arrives at a military port for an official visit, in Shanghai, China, November 16, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

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BEIJING (Reuters) - The United States has seriously damaged peace and stability in the South China Sea after a U.S. warship sailed near a disputed island in waters claimed by China, the Asian nation's defence ministry said on Monday.

The ministry resolutely opposes the entry of U.S. warships into Chinese territory, it said in a statement on social media.

The actions of the United States navy seriously damaged the "political atmosphere" around the development of military ties between the two countries, the ministry added.

The USS Stethem, a guided-missile destroyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island, part of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, a U.S. Defense Department official said.

(Reporting by Christian Shepherd)

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