The alleged incursion by two USA warships into the internationally disputed waters of the South China Sea was the second such move within five weeks.
One of Donald Trump's most persistent economic promises has been to rewrite the US relationship with China.
But there is growing bipartisan concern in the United States about increasing state control of China's economy, military activity in the South China Sea, and security issues around its technology companies.
The push for a deal comes as Trump begins to lay out his case for re-election next year, arguing that his administration has helped to buoy USA growth and employment through tax cuts and deregulation.
Navy spokesman Commander Clay Doss told U.S. media: "All operations are designed in accordance with global law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever worldwide law allows". "FONOPs are not about any one country, nor are they about making political statements".
"U.S. Forces operate in the Indo-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea", Doss said in a statement.
"All operations are designed in accordance with worldwide law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever global law allows", Doss said. "That is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe", he said.
Tensions have been high for years between Washington and Beijing in the South China Sea, with the USA regularly drawing Chinese ire.
It shouldn't come as a surprise when Trump changes his mind.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are scheduled to hold talks on Thursday and Friday with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, top economic adviser to Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
As top trade negotiators prepare to travel to China this week to continue talks, the White House is shedding some light about an anticipated summit between President Trump and his Chinese counterpart. The situation could get worse as a truce on tariffs is set to expire in early March.