China 'will not allow US to violate its territorial waters in the South China Sea'
Foreign ministry urges responsible stance on regional stability as Washington mulls sending warships close to South China Sea islands
China on Friday said it would not stand for violations of its territorial waters in the name of freedom of navigation, as the United States considers sailing warships close to China's artificial islands in the South China Sea.
A US defence official said Washington was mulling sending ships within the next two weeks to waters inside the 12-nautical-mile zone that Beijing claims as territory around islands it has built in the Spratly chain.
Beijing claims most of the South China Sea, though Washington has signalled it does not recognise its territorial claims and that the US navy will continue to operate wherever international law allows.
"We will never allow any country to violate China's territorial waters and airspace in the Spratly Islands, in the name of protecting freedom of navigation and overflight," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said. "We urge the related parties not to take any provocative actions, and genuinely take a responsible stance on regional peace and stability."
White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Friday said he was aware of the media reports but did not have any comment on future policy decisions.
Any such move "should not provoke significant reaction from the Chinese," he said. "This is something the US has done on several other occasions because the president is committed to the principle of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea."
The US and its allies in Asia, including Japan, have called on Beijing to halt construction on its man-made islands and the issue is central to increasingly tense US-China relations.
President Xi Jinping has said the country has no intention of militarising the islands, but Washington analysts and US officials say Beijing has already begun setting up military facilities there.
The Navy Times on Thursday quoted US officials as saying the action could take place "within days", but was waiting on final approval from the Obama administration.
A US defence official declined to confirm any decision had been made, but referred to US Assistant Secretary of Defence David Shear's remarks in congressional testimony last month that "all options are on the table". "We are looking at this," the official said.
Admiral Harry Harris, commander of US forces in the Pacific, told the Aspen Security Forum in July that China was building hangars on one of the reefs - Fiery Cross - that appeared to be for tactical fighter aircraft.
In May, the Chinese navy issued eight warnings to the crew of a US P8-A Poseidon surveillance aircraft that had flown near China's artificial islands, according to CNN, which was aboard the US aircraft.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims in the South China Sea.