A Chinese destroyer performed an "unsafe" maneuver during an encounter with a U.S. Navy warship in the disputed South China Sea over the weekend, coming within 40 meters (45 yards) of the American vessel's bow and forcing it to steer the ship away to prevent a collision, the U.S. military said Tuesday.

The confrontation occurred Sunday, as the guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur was conducting what the U.S. calls "freedom of navigation operations" (FONOPs) near a Chinese-held man-made islet in the Spratly chain of the strategic waterway.

"At approximately 0830 local time on September 30, a PRC LUYANG destroyer approached USS DECATUR in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea," U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Charlie Brown said in a statement.