"We respect all countries' right for freedom of navigation and flight under worldwide law, but we firmly oppose any action to jeopardize the sovereignty and security of countries under the pretext of freedom of navigation", Hua said Monday.
A United States official said the warships had approached the islands on Monday to counter Chinese claims of domination over the entire South China Sea. The ships entered the waters without China's permission, ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.The US warships sailed near the islands the same day that China resumed trade talks with Washington. In January, China urged the U.S.to halt "provocative actions" after a US guided-missile destroyer conducted sailed near the Paracel Islands, which are occupied by China and claimed by Vietnam.
Beijing asserts almost all of the South China Sea as its territorial waters.
She urged the USA to cease the "provocative actions".More news: Pompeo warns Europeans of risks to US cooperation over Huawei
The guided-missile destroyers USS Spruance and USS Preble travelled within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands, which China claims ownership of.
A spokesman for the 7th Fleet said the mission was conducted "in order to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by global law".
China claims nearly all of the strategic South China Sea and frequently lambasts the U.S. and its allies over naval operations near Chinese-occupied islands.
Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam also have territorial claims in the region.More news: Denver school leaders, teachers negotiate trying to avoid strike
Washington has hit back in the past, claiming it is countering Beijing's militarisation of the South China Sea by building army installations on artificial reefs and islands. In September, a Chinese warship came within just 45 yards of a USA destroyer, raising concerns about the possibility of tensions boiling over into conflict.
China says the bases are essential for self-defense and accused the USA of ramping up tensions in the region by sending battleships and warplanes close to the disputed islands.
Fears have grown in recent months that the US-China trade dispute is just one element in a bilateral relationship that is fast cooling across the board, with top US administration officials sharply criticising Beijing for everything from human rights abuses to cyber espionage in the United States.More news: United Kingdom paper reveals abuse claims against tycoon Philip Green