China says US making political provocations with South China Sea patrols

A photo showing alleged on-going land reclamation by China on Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, on May 11, 2015.
A photo showing alleged on-going land reclamation by China on Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, on May 11, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - China said on Sunday (Nov 22) that the United States was making political provocations with its patrols in the disputed South China Sea, as tensions around the strategic waterways mount.

China will continue to construct military facilities on artificial islands it is building, Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told a news conference in Kuala Lumpur. The facilities are needed to protect the islands, he said.

Washington was testing Beijing with its insistence on"freedom of navigation" in the strategic waterway, he added.

Mr Liu also said on Sunday that freedom of navigation and overflight over the South China Sea has never been a problem and reiterated that disputes over territory in the strategic waterway should be resolved by the countries concerned.

Mr Liu made the remarks at a briefing during a meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders.

"Freedom of navigation and overflight have never been a problem," he said, speaking about the South China Sea at a news conference.

Mr Liu said China has put forward a proposal for properly handling South China Sea issues.

China, which claims almost the entire energy-rich South China Sea, has been transforming reefs into artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago and building airfields and other facilities on some of them. That has prompted concerns in Washington and across the region that Beijing is trying to militarise its claims in the South China Sea.

Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have territorial claims in the South China Sea.