China has expressed "firm opposition" to remarks made by US Pentagon chief Jim Mattis during a regional defence summit over the weekend, after he criticised Beijing's "militarisation" of the South China Sea.
Washington has repeatedly expressed concerns that China's development of artificial islands in the region poses a threat to freedom of navigation through its waters, a major artery for international trade.
Competing claims to the sea, which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits, have for decades made it one of Asia's potential military flashpoints.
"The scope and effect of China's construction activities in the South China Sea differ from other countries in several key ways," Mattis noted, saying Beijing's "militarisation" and "disregard for international law" showed its "contempt" for other nations' interests.
In a statement late Sunday, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called Mattis's comments "irresponsible" and accused "certain countries outside the region" of making "erroneous remarks driven by ulterior motives".
"China has indisputable sovereignty over the (Spratly) Islands and their adjacent waters," Hua said, referring to reefs and islets in the South China Sea where Beijing has built installations that could be used by its military.
Read the full story at SpaceDaily
PacificSentinel: I really wish the Chinese would stop using the words "indisputable sovereignty", the simple fact is, if someone disputes your sovereignty, then it is by definition, disputable.