China says don't "hype up" freedom of navigation in South China Sea

A Chinese protester demonstrating against US encroachment in the South China Sea is confronted by Chinese police officers in Beijing, on Oct 28, 2015.
A Chinese protester demonstrating against US encroachment in the South China Sea is confronted by Chinese police officers in Beijing, on Oct 28, 2015. PHOTO: EPA

BEIJING (REUTERS) - The issue of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea should not be "hyped up" or used as an excuse for provocation, China's defence minister said on Wednesday, in response to recent United States action in the sea.

Minister of National Defence Chang Wanquan made the remarks at a forum of Southeast Asian defence ministers, his ministry said in a microblog posting, after the group scrapped plans for a joint statement at the end of the talks, reflecting heightened tension over the South China Sea.

The United States recently called a voyage by one of its warships near one of China's man-made islands in the Spratly archipelago a freedom-of-navigation patrol.